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Grieving as a disabled person

Ross_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,652 Disability Gamechanger
It is National Grief Awareness Week, which is a chance to raise awareness of all aspects of grief and loss on a national scale, and offer access to a choice of tailored support to all those grieving in the UK and to those working with the bereaved.

It is an opportunity to:
  • ensure immediate access to support for all types of bereavement in local communities across the country
  • raise awareness of smaller front line organisations in the UK, and to give them a national platform to reach those in need in their local area
  • help the public to better understand how to support those who are grieving, and to normalise grief

What is grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering a person feels when something or someone they love is taken away. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. A person may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to loss and the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief can be.

People most commonly associate grief with the loss of a loved one, however any kind of loss can cause grief, such as:
  • divorce or relationship break up
  • financial stability
  • losing a job
  • retirement
  • the death of a pet
  • loss of a friendship
  • sale of the family home
  • loss of a cherished dream
  • becoming disabled, or a loss of health
Even subtle losses in life can trigger a sense of grief. For example, you might grieve after moving away from home, graduating from university, or changing jobs. A theory developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross suggests that we go through five distinct stages of grief after loss, which are:
  1. denial
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance
man and woman hugging each other

Struggling to come to terms with disability

It's quite normal and very common for a disabled person to find it hard to come to terms with their impairment. Whether they acquire a disability at birth, during childhood, adulthood or gradually over the course of time, there is often a period of grief that people go through.

The thing being grieved is life before the impairment, or life before the impairment became worse, and there can be no telling how long the grief can last if untreated, or if it will return in the future. I have some experience of this myself, I have never had what you would call 'normal' vision, but I remember a time when I was younger that my sight felt better, in particular my light sensitivity. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what causes the emotion, but in the past I've found myself thinking back to a time when I felt I could see better, and feeling sadness at the thought that those days have gone and may never return. It's a feeling that can sometimes last minutes, but it can also last for a greater period of time and lurk in the back of your mind.

Furthermore, for a disabled person it's never just a case of grieving a time where they didn't have an impairment, but there can also be worry about the process of adapting to a new way of doing things, and overcoming the barriers posed by society. Adapting to having a disability can be particularly challenging in the following areas:
  • travel, transport and navigation
  • education and employment
  • technology
  • finances and benefits
  • socialising and interaction
It can be hard to come to terms with having a disability and it can feel like a lonely road, support isn't always easy to come by and it can be hard to know where to go to find out about what support is available. But if you are someone who has struggled with grief in the past, present or think you might do in the future, you are not alone and there is help out there. 

Some resources you might find useful

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  • janer1967
    janer1967 Community member Posts: 21,964 Disability Gamechanger
    Great post thanks for sharing
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 10,414 Disability Gamechanger
    Grief affects us all in different ways, when mum died 4 years ago 5 days after the funeral I was having open heart surgery and didn't get to grieve properly for months. Dad died at the start of this year we buried him a week before lockdown and somehow and I know this sounds awful but I haven't really grieved him which is a shame as he was a great dad.
    I fully expect to wake up one day and think "oh dads dead"
    My one piece of advice for what its worth is when you lose someone close, talk about them and of course time is a great healer.
    Seasons greetings to one and all 🎄🎅🏻🌲
  • WestHam06
    WestHam06 Community member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,396 Pioneering
    Hi @woodbine
                             I'm sorry to read of your loss and thank you for your honestly. I also think your advice is vitally important, thank you for sharing. 
  • WestHam06
    WestHam06 Community member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,396 Pioneering
    Hi @Ross_Scope
                                  Thank you so much for sharing this with us, grief is something we all experience and yet it is often a taboo subject, in my opinion.  People grieve in different ways and for different reasons but it can be difficult to acknowledge when this grief may be something worth talking about it, this is often when a person is in a denial stage, which is unique to each individual. I would encourage people to seek support if and when they feel is appropriate. Thank you for your honesty in sharing part of your story with us. Thank you. 
  • Ross_Alumni
    Ross_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,652 Disability Gamechanger
    Sorry for your loss @woodbine, it's a shame you haven't been able to grieve properly. I agree that it's always best to talk about people you've lost, it can help.

    And you're welcome @WestHam06, I felt as though my personal experience would be appropriate here. Thanks for your insight.
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  • Francis_theythem
    Francis_theythem Community member Posts: 120 Pioneering
    Hi - my university is doing a research project on grief at the moment. Their website is
    I don't know if any of you want to contribute to their research on grief or check it out but I thought I'd flag it up anyway

  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,462 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks for posting @Francis_theythem
    National Campaigns Officer, she/her

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