• Disenfranchised Grief and Resilience Among Gay Widowers: A Phenomenological Exploration

      McNutt, Bryan R. (2014)
      Due to the continued prevalence of socio-cultural attitudes of sexual prejudice and stigma towards sexual minority relationships, and the continued lack of consistently inclusive legal protections for same-sex couples, bereaved gay widowers face considerable risk of encountering psychosocial features of disenfranchised grief at some point throughout their mourning process. In addition to providing a comprehensive review of previous research related to the bereavement experience of sexual minorities, this study considered the important role of psychological resilience for gay widowers in managing the bereavement recovery process and concurrent experiences of sexual minority stress. A descriptive phenomenological approach was applied through the use of semistructured in-depth interviews with five (5) gay widowers mourning the death of a same-sex partner due to a non-HIV/AIDS related cause. Results identified three primary constituents supporting a healthy trajectory of grief experience among gay widowers, while also providing indicators contributing to enhanced emotional and social resiliency: (1) Validation and Affirmation, (2) Family of Origin Integration, and (3) Positive Self- Regard. Likewise, the opposite constructs of these constituents (devaluation and disregard, family exclusion, and negative self-regard) also serve as likely indicators of increased vulnerability to developing complicated forms of disenfranchised grief, as well as difficulty accessing emotional and social resilience. Thus, the descriptions of these lived experiences provide further understanding of the influence of sexual minority stress upon the bereavement process of gay widowers, while also emphasizing the critical role of social validation and interpersonal recognition in promoting emotional resilience.