BACKGROUND: Support from social networks is vital after the death of a partner. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT+) people can face disenfranchisement and isolation in bereavement. The Acceptance-Disclosure Model (of LGBT+ bereavement) posits that experiences are shaped by the extent to which individuals feel able to disclose their bereavement to others, and whether that loss is acknowledged appropriately.
AIM: To explore LGBT+ specific experiences of partner bereavement; determine decision-making processes regarding disclosure of relationships/identities; and appraise the Acceptance-Disclosure Model using primary qualitative data.
DESIGN: Exploratory in-depth qualitative interview study positioned within a social constructivist paradigm. Data were analysed using inductive and deductive reflexive thematic analysis.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: 21 LGBT+ people from across England bereaved of their civil partner/spouse.
RESULTS: Participants described LGBT+ specific stressors in bereavement: lack of recognition of their loss; inappropriate questioning; unwanted disclosure of gender history; and fears of discrimination when accessing support. Disclosure of LGBT+ identities varied across social networks. Some participants described hiding their identities and bereavement to preserve relationships, and challenging intersections between LGBT+ identities and other aspects of culture or self. These findings provide primary evidence to support the Acceptance-Disclosure Model.
CONCLUSIONS: LGBT+ people face additional stressors in bereavement. Not all LGBT+ people want to talk directly about their relationships/identities. Sensitive exploration of support needs, aligned with preferences around disclosure of identities, can help foster trust. Five recommendations for inclusive practice are presented. Further research should consider whether the Acceptance-Disclosure Model has utility to explain bereavement experiences for other isolated or disenfranchised groups.