Grief Topic

Grief Reactions Associated with the Death of a Gay Partner

Some gay and lesbian relationships are supported by both partners’ families and also have a strong social support network. In this situation the grieving partner may have a relatively uncomplicated course.

Special circumstances

Some special circumstances may make the situation very difficult for the surviving partner.

  • Neither family nor friends of the deceased partner may be aware of the relationship of an isolated or closeted couple. As a result the bereaved partner may have no recognition or role in the funeral arrangements or grieving period afterwards, which may cause anger and remorse.
  • The bereaved partner may not know who they can confidentially turn to for support because of the risk of revealing their sexuality. They may feel they have to bear their grief alone.
  • The nature of the relationship may only become apparent to either or both of the two associated families around the time of the death. Each family may have it’s own particular reaction to this sudden revelation which will need to be dealt with by the surviving partner in addition to their grief.
  • Families and friends may not appreciate the depth of grief which can accompany the death of a gay or lesbian partner and may not give sufficient support to the surviving partner.
  • The deceased partner’s family may never have accepted the relationship and may actively exclude the survivor from all the arrangements.
  • There may be no Will, or if there is one, it may be challenged by the deceased partner’s family. Financial problems can also be encountered in dealing with the deceased partner’s superannuation.
  • The cause of death, such as suicide or AIDS, may lead to difficulties.

Coping with the death of a gay or lesbian partner

  • Negotiation with the family may be possible to resolve these situations.
  • Support may be found from the couple’s friends.
  • A separate funeral or memorial service from that of the family may help the grieving process.
  • Estates and financial matters sometimes need to be settled by the Courts.

    Page last updated 17th April, 2008