The ability to deal with loss and pain while celebrating the lives and legacies of those who have passed before us is critical to wellness and the longevity of the Black community. Let’s focus on how to live, deal and thrive in it.
By Vanessa Charlot
From the transatlantic slave trade to the lynchings and Jim Crow laws of the past to the issues of police brutality, racial discrimination, and gun violence today, the black community and the African diaspora have faced immense trauma and loss in a truly unique way. The repercussions of this trauma and loss range from tears and prayer to anger and violence – and everything in between. This ongoing trauma results in a deep sense of grief shared and passed down through generations, shaping our community’s collective identity and experience.
That grief – if not dealt with, can turn into a fury and rage the world is not ready for. It can be argued that a bit of rage is healthy and necessary to motivate progress.
“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time” –James Baldwin
This rage motivates us and pushes us forward – but at what expense?
It is essential to acknowledge the impact of grief on our emotional well-being and discuss ways of addressing it openly.
Here are a few healthy coping mechanisms to consider:
Coping with Collective Grief
THERAPY. We cannot stress this enough. On our best days, we have a lot on our shoulders, let alone work through life’s more challenging chapters and hurdles. We get physical check-ups annually, dentists twice a year, optometrists, gynecologists, etc. – so why wouldn’t we do the same with our mental health? Your mental and emotional well-being is fragile – protect it and nurture it.
Community. Accordingly, we must be the change we want to see; no one else will save us. As a community, we must stand on the shoulders of the love, power, and sacrifice that came before us. Get involved with your local community, develop initiatives, or volunteer your time, talents, and resources to pre-existing ones to make your community a better place. Use your frustrations and anger to do positive things.
Social Media. The role it plays in your life is for you to decide for better or worse. Indeed, you can leverage your social media channels to educate, inform, grieve, and celebrate. But as with everything, proceed with caution and moderation. A beautiful sense of community and organization takes place on social media. But there is also hatred, toxicity, and harmful imagery as well. Be mindful of your social media consumption and rely on your discernment to determine your limits and what is healthy for you. Remember – to block, mute, unfollow, and delete as needed.
Faith. Whatever power you acknowledge, lean on that. God, Allah, the Universe, the Ancestors, Karma, wherever or whomever you can seek comfort. Accordingly, these spaces provide refuge, community, and solace. In these spaces, we can develop peace within each of us that may withstand the evils and wrongdoings of the world around us.
Rest. Rest is revolutionary.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” –Audre Lorde
Resting is necessary because without it, we burn out, and who will that serve?
We’ve inherited fatigue and generational trauma, which continues to reverberate within our bodies. However, we have also inherited the freedom to rest. The United States Declaration of Independence alleges that every person is entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is time we cash in on the pursuit of happiness. Rest combined with finding and celebrating Black joy is our secret ingredient. Without rest, we will not be able to withstand the longevity of this fight. This is not a sprint. As Nipsey Hussle says, “The marathon continues.”
In conclusion, collective grief experienced by the Black community is a long-standing tradition that serves as a testament to the resilience and strength of our community. Despite every challenge and roadblock, we have always found ways to unite, mourn, comfort, celebrate, and persevere.