After I was widowed, and coped with the bureaucracies from insurance companies to my own and my child's health insurance, to the MVA and how my home was titled, I realized how many essential privileges I'd had by virtue of marriage -- and how I'd taken them for granted. How their denial would make life so, so much more difficult at the worst time in my life already.
But grief and loss expose many other fault lines, between people and in society. It often shows you who is left out or falls between the cracks. As I discovered grief support and started to map how it looks in America, I found organizations, local, regional, and even online, that won't allow folks who weren't married to their late loves to participate. (Yes, even straight ones. As if that helps.) Knowing widowed folks the way I do, I know their grief and their loss can easily be the same size as that of a married widow. (Just to avoid splitting hairs: no grief ever has a size: even folks who HATED their late partner are facing loss, grief and adjustments that cannot be measured or compared).
So what about couples who CAN'T marry? If you believe that people who loved more, or lived together longer, or had more children have grief of a different size, how do you honor the ones who are not legally allowed to "marry," whatever's in their hearts?
(Fortunately, for the most part, the organizations that support grieving children don't care so much about the paperwork that accompanied their parents' love.)
(This is without even starting in on all the many grief organizations run by religious organizations, including those with covert Christian agendas (**coughcough**), many of whom find other reasons to exclude grieving LGBT people. ((Just to make it totally confusing, many grief groups hosted at churches are completely secular.)) And I'm not touching on how this affects the transgendered widowed, or the massive sexual upheaval that can be an aftermath of loss, because honestly, I'd only be guessing at this point, but I expect those stories will, er, "come out" as we grow grief literacy.)
So: make no mistake. Civil rights IS an issue for organizations that support the grieving. Gay families are families. I challenge organizations that support grieving people to accept love and families of all stripes and to STATE their non-discrimination policies up front. Because sad as it is, you can lose a partner and STILL get turned away from free, peer-based support, and you can make that call without ANY idea how you'll be received.
There is little enough grief support for young people who've lost a partner, and little enough understanding of the lives of widows and widowers, for us to leave anyone out.
Please meet some of my friends -- Unmarried widows, Hira Animfefte and UnweddedWidow, and our friend, Dan, whose blogroll will introduce you to many other LGBT bloggers as well as other resources. (I list the bloggers, but they're only divided by year of loss).
My community, Widowed Village, includes a small and private area for LGBT widowed people and welcomes them in all discussions and other programs as well.
Camp Widow -- the premier weekend of support and learning for widowed people, held this year in San Diego in August -- is inclusive.Read the other posts in the #LGBTFamilies series at Mombian.