Strategies for Addressing Same-Sex Grief Issues (1

Mary E. Garrison, LCSW, ACSW
Associate Professor of Social Work - Millikin University
NASW Illinois Board Member – East Central District Chair
Nancy J. Curtin, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Communication - Millikin University
Department of Communication Chair
Tweet us at #NASWIL
Session Preview:
Historical Perspective
Case Study
Concepts & Case Connections
Strategies & Techniques
Historical Perspective:
• Focus on Gays
• Emerging Focus on Lesbians
• Our Focus Today: Gays and Lesbians
Case Presentation: Nancy & Jill
Disenfranchised Grief (DG):
• Conceptualization of Definition
• Examples
• Impact of DG on Same-Sex Couples
“Case Connections”
Same-Sex Grieving Partners:
Unique Factors
• Attitudes about Same-Sex Couples
 Discrimination
 Heteronormativity
• Role of Person & Relationship Disclosure
 Internal
 Definition of relationship
 External
 Degree of “Outness”
Same-Sex Grieving Partners:
Unique Factors
• Cause/Reason for Death
• Stigma
• Resource Availability
• Lack of effective/appropriate resources
• Support groups
• Counseling
• Professional Services
• Result = Disenfranchised Grief
Cultural Competence:
• Social work perspective
Use of language
Labeling/defining relationship
Reference to deceased
Centrality of relationship
Cultural Competence:
• Communication Perspective
 Defining/Labeling the Relationship
 Disclosing the Relationship (degree of
 Identifying the Context of the Disclosure
 Managing the Disclosure
Intervention Strategies: Same-sex
grieving partners
 Language Use
 Mirror client’s language with the relational
label & feelings.
 Acknowledgement/Communication of DG
 Provide context for client
 Validate
Intervention Strategies: Same-sex
grieving partners
 Validation of Loss
 Avoid minimization of relationship and
 Recognition and Identification of
 Consider internal messages
 Question external messages
• Broderick, D. J., Birbilis, J. M. & Steger, M. F. (2008). Lesbians
grieving the death of a partner: Recommendations for practice.
Journal of Lesbian Studies (12), 2-3, 225-235.
• Doka, K. J. (1989). Disenfranchised grief. In K. J. Doka (Ed.),
Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing the Hidden Sorrow (pp. 3-11).
Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
• Hunter, S. (2011). Lesbian and Gay Couples: Lives, Issues, and
Practice. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.
• McNutt, B. & Yahushko, O. (2013). Disenfranchised grief among
lesbian and gay bereaved individuals. Journal of LGBT Issues in
Counseling, 7(1), 87-116. DOI: 10.1080/15538605.2013.758345.
• National Association of Social Work Standards for Cultural
Competence in Social Work Practice. (2001). NASW Press.
• Petronio, S. & Durham, W. T. (2008). Communication privacy
management theory: Significance for interpersonal
communication. In L. A. Baxter & D. O. Braithwaite (Eds.),
Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: Multiple
perspectives (pp. 309-322). CA: Sage.
• Rack, J., Burleson, B., Graham, B., Holmstrom, A. (2007).
Bereaved adults’ evaluations of grief management messages:
Effects of message person centeredness, recipient individual
differences, and contextual factors. Conference paper-International Communication Association Annual Meeting, 1-41.
• VanDenBergh, N. & Crisp, C. (2004). Defining culturally competent
practice with sexual minorities: Implications for social work
education and practice. Journal of Social Work Education, 40(2),
• Walker, J.A. & Prince, T. (2010). Training considerations and
suggested counseling interventions for LGBT individuals. Journal
of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 4:2-17. DOI:
• Whipple, V. (2006). Lesbian Widows: Invisible Grief. New York:
Harrington Park Press.
• Wood, J. T. (2009). Gendered Lives. Boston, MA: Wadsworth

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