Older people are more likely to experience bereavement than any other age group. Yet older people are less likely to seek help than younger bereaved people, and less likely to be offered support.
Older members of the LGBT+ community may have particularly difficult experiences of bereavement. This is explored in Independent Age’s report Good Grief, older people’s experiences of partner bereavement.
Struggle to be recognised
The charity Marie Curie’s report on bereavement experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people found that partners may feel isolated or unsupported during bereavement because of their sexuality.
Some LGBT people report feeling a lack of recognition or respect as next of kin to the deceased (Marie Curie). They may also struggle to have their grief recognised, and to recognise their own grief, particularly if their relationship was not validated by others.
This “disenfranchised” grief can reduce the support available to the bereaved partner and can make it harder for them to access the usual sources of support during an already isolating time.
We’re not in a formal partnership… for a variety of reasons that’s not happening in the near future.
Of course being in a formal partnership and being able to wave your papers is the easiest and quickest way of being recognised as next of kin, and we’ve got to work on that, but I suspect that straight couples don’t actually have to wave their marriage lines.
Opening Doors is a charity that provides information and support services specifically aimed at older LGBT people. They recognise that people in same-sex relationships may have a different experience to heterosexual couples.
“Older LGBT people may be less likely to be married than their heterosexual counterparts, and therefore may experience greater financial uncertainty after their partner’s death.
"Because of prejudice and discrimination, older generations of LGBT people may have reduced social support following a bereavement, especially from family members. They are also less likely to have children and grandchildren to offer support.
"Same-sex partners may be treated differently by health and social care professionals during end-of-life care, at the time of death and following their partner’s death. Bereaved partners may not be as respected or recognised as next of kin to the deceased or their role as partner to the deceased may be downplayed, for instance, being referred to as a “friend” rather than partner or husband/wife in the eulogy.”
Have you been affected by these issues?
If you have been affected by any of the issues described in this blog, or simply need someone to reach out to, you can contact Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline on 0300 330 0630 10am-10pm every day, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Independent Age.