Grief is an emotive experience I have been more comfortable with over the last few years, as I have lost both my primary parental figures since 2016. My grandfather passed in 2016 and my mother passed in 2018. I could never really describe the depth of the pain I felt, but I can tell you that bother experiences took me out of work and required an intense of amount of therapy, mindfulness, and external support to get through. As a therapist, what I know, is that we are constantly grieving various aspects of our lives because change is constantly occurring. We grieve changes in in career and work, possessions, relationships, and parts of ourselves.
Even in knowing this, there is one aspect of grief that I have had to accept will always be ever-present and will never change; the grief and experience of being a Black person. In the US, Black bodies have been exploited, murdered, abused, and pillaged since the creation of the 13 colonies. It is these actions that help create the superpower that is the US. Those in power, have done an exceptional job to continue their systems of degradation, disenfranchisement, abuse, neglect, murder, and exploitation to this day.
As a history buff, I carry an extended historical insight into the Black experience in the US, but also experience of African peoples dispersed across the globe because of Imperialism. As a Black body, my DNA carries the emotional experience of my ancestors. As a person living in the 21st century, thanks to print, tv and social media, I get to carry the images of countless names of Black bodies killed by white people who claim fear and protection.
It is hard.
As a therapist, I get to create safe, open, and honest space for my clients to share their most difficult, exciting, darkest, light-bearing, and vulnerable selves. I love being a therapist. Its what I've wanted to do ever since I was 8. And in that love, is one of the most difficult challenges: maintaining composure and the capacity to hold space for them, when we are both grieving another black body being lynched, murdered, abused or exploited in a hate crime.
Usual emotions that come over me whenever I hear a hate crime: sadness, anger, hurt, pain, disgust, confusion, and/or envy. It is rarely shock because of all the reasons mentioned prior. Grief begins to ensue. More tears for another person who will become another hashtag , and really be forgotten by the people who should see that the elimination and genocide of Black bodies is disgraceful and the fact that those who take their lives, rarely get any type of serious consequences, goes beyond injustice.
So imagine, I get to move through my own emotions, put them on pause, so I can be present for my clients, and often have to look at the cascade of tears running down my clients cheeks. It feels like torture. To add insult to injury, there are unfortunately many white therapists who don't care or are indifferent during these times, and so, I also think about the Black clients who don't even have someone empathetic enough to their experience, holding inadequate space for them.
Sometimes I just cry, in confusion, and ask, why can't they see us? Why don't they see we are humans? Why don't they see that we matter? Why don't they see our value beyond beauty, athleticism and entertainment? I think to myself, how freeing it must be for people who are racist to be numb to the pain of others. I'm fortunate , I could never be that way. However the down side to being so compassionate and empathetic, is feeling so intensely, and you just want to stop it sometime.
I do my best to affirm my clients. Most of them are from historically marginalized groups, and of course, when aspects of your identity is targeted through hate, how can you not develop beliefs doubting your worth or value? To be a member of an oppressed group, trauma based off ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, vehemently shapes your perception of yourself.
By May 31, 2020. there have been 10 public cases around the murder of a Black person at the hand of a white person, and that's just public news. It hurts. I'm sad. Its exhausting to hear and have to move through. I want to cry with clients. I want to scream. Some days. I just don't even want to see clients. I have mastered self care, so fortunately, I engage in a lot of deep restorative practices, but no matter what, it feels unfair. Its unfair that race based trauma is still a reality of 2020. Its unfair that my emotional body, continues to have experiences to hold on to. Its unfair that my brain and body has to continue to adapt to the trauma. I can't stand it, and all the while, its something I still have to accept. Whether I'm in the US or another country, I have to spend my lifetime, continuing to witness parts of me dying.
Despite it all, I always lean into gratitude and focus on strengths. That is literally, what gives me the strength and depth to show up for my clients. It hurts, but I'm grateful and proud to be a Black woman. I can't stand that they do this to us, but I'm proud that some people feel so threatened, that they want to exterminate us. I'm grateful for allyship. I'm grateful for advocacy. I'm grateful for progress in opportunity and some justices. I'm grateful for a richness in history and the impact Black people have made in this world. Lastly. I am grateful for the resilience. Because no matter what, we always rise, and that is something to be proud of and celebrate.
I just want people to know, the therapists are hurting too; they grieve, get depressed, and anxious about some of the same current events as you.
August 8, 2019 marked one year since my mother passed. I gave myself intentional space of solitude from October 2018 to February 2019, to do as minimal as possible. I utilized my energy for work, rest, and self care activities. Self care included weekly and monthly involvement in dance, paint, therapy, life coaching, acupuncture, personal training and travel. In this time of stillness, I spent a lot of time in introspection. I allowed myself to feel the depth of my sorrow, and at times despair.
As a big believer in the therapeutic art of journaling, I constantly wrote about mental, emotional and spiritual experiences thru this time. It was necessary for me to constantly process what I was experiencing, in order to not be completely consumed by grief with an onset of depression on top of my normal depression experience.
As all types of fears, insecurities, and trauma based responses arose, I was intentional of asking myself, what can I learn from this? I was extremely emotionally fragile during this time, and I allowed myself the space and gave myself the permission to honor my emotional experience. I feel like most of what I will share can be applicable to anyone, but I must preface these reflections, by mentioning that much of the inner work I’ve done, has been centered on processing traumatic experiences, and relieving symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a mental health practitioner and community healer, I have to constantly keep self care, self awareness, and wellness in the forefront of my life.
There’s many roles and responsibilities that I carry, and I take them all seriously. Self actualization and self love are very important to me, therefore as I’ve increasing became a more conscious and spiritually grounded person, challenging and removing anything that’s an internal or external that's a threat to my peace, freedom, or purpose, must be assessed.
So much has transpired in the last year, both externally and internally. I have grown immensely, releasing many unhealthy thought and behavior patterns, while also acquiring acceptance and courage in many ways that I found difficult before. In light of this growth, and in honor of the gift that loss brings, I wanted to share major lessons experienced since my mother passed.
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