Bereavement support for the LGBTQ+ community
If you’re going through grief following a bereavement, the support of friends and family can be so helpful. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community and don’t have a support network around you, we want you to know that help is available.
Many LGBTQ+ people do have a close network of friends and family that can support them through a bereavement. But unfortunately, not everyone has the security of a support network. If you’ve become estranged from your family because of your sexuality or gender identity, this can make grieving extra difficult. But there are people that can help you.
Why can grief as an LGBTQ+ person be different?
Grief is a painful experience, whatever your gender or sexual identity. ‘But for LGBTQ+ people, it’s grief plus some,’ says Claudia Carvell, chair of Co-op’s Respect LGBTQ+ Network. ‘Queer communities already have a lot of trauma and the death of a close friend or loved one can magnify that.’
‘If someone in your chosen family dies, you’re left with an added layer of isolation,’ Claudia says. ‘If you feel like that person really understood you, whether it’s a partner or a close friend, and now you’re down a person, that can be quite traumatic.’
Trans and non-binary people
If you’re trans or non-binary, you may often be misgendered or even not have your relationship recognised. It’s not unusual to hear of partners referred to as a ‘friend’ or being left out of planning their loved one’s funeral. If this happens, it can make the experience even harder.
Where can you find LGBTQ+ bereavement support?
One source of help is Pink Therapy, a counselling directory for LGBTQ+ people. You can also select LGBTQ+ options with other counselling and therapy organisations, such as Cruse Bereavement Support, The Good Grief Trust or The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Claudia also recommends joining your local LGBTQ+ friendly death café: ‘You can talk about issues around death from an LGBTQ+ perspective, which may help you feel more comfortable’. If you can’t find one, why not think about setting one up yourself?
Find bereavement support locally
Your local LGBTQ+ services may have free bereavement counselling, and there are many LGBTQ+ bereavement support groups online. When choosing a counsellor or bereavement support, it's important you find someone who understands and respects your sexuality and relationships. ‘I know of a person who died who was in a polyamorous relationship,’ Claudia says. ‘When one of their partners tried to seek help, their relationship was dismissed, which isn’t the response you want. The ways other people love matter.’
Talk to people
Whoever you choose to talk to, it is important that you talk. ‘We need to talk about death more, we need to talk about grief more, and we need to talk about it from an LGBTQ+ perspective,’ says Claudia. ‘If we have those conversations more often, we won’t be so blindsided by bereavement when it happens.’
Choosing the right funeral director
If you’re arranging a funeral for someone you love, make sure you feel comfortable with your chosen funeral director. If it doesn’t feel right, always know you are free to find a different funeral director at any point.
Our Co-op Funeralcare colleagues are here to support you and help you through arranging a funeral for someone no matter who you are. Our funeral directors do not judge, and they will treat everyone who needs help with kindness, care and respect.
Other ways to cope with bereavement
As well as talking to others, there are some practical ways you can manage your grief and honour your loved one. These could be:
• Holding a memorial service with their friends and chosen family – this may be particularly helpful if you’ve been cut out of their funeral by the birth family
• Making a memory jar – ask friends to write down their favourite memories of your loved one and keep them in a jar to read whenever you need
• Planting a tree or their favourite flowers in your loved one’s memory
• Planning a special event – this could be an annual event, like a meal at their favourite restaurant, or a fundraiser for a charity they were close to
• Scattering their ashes – you could do this in a place that has a significant meaning to them, during a special service for all your friends
• Turning their ashes into jewellery or other keepsakes to help keep their memory alive
• Creating a photo book – you can collate photos of your loved one in a beautiful book, then look back over your lives together
While it’s natural to want to celebrate your loved one, try not to ignore your own needs. ‘Grief can be exhausting and painful,’ Claudia says. ‘Sometimes you need to focus on your own feelings, which is a normal part of life – that doesn’t change with someone’s death.’
If you’re really struggling, reach out to the people who can support you, whoever your people are.
For more help and advice, see our guides to bereavement support, or contact: