Over the last few years, we as individuals and as a community have lost so many people who meant something to us. From rap legends like DMX and Biz Markie to cherished icons like Kobe Bryant, Cicely Tyson and Sidney Poitier, the shock and devastation behind losing people who have given us some sense of joy, excitement or inspiration can take a subconscious toll on us all. Combine that with the state of our world—racially, socially and politically—with the ongoing confusion and never-ending exhaustion of the pandemic; it’s safe to say we have all been grieving, collectively. Collective grief happens when “a community, society, village, or nation all experience extreme change or loss”. We as Black people are not strangers to this phenomenon as we have a long history of grief that is stitched into the very fiber of our beings. But, it may seem, that we are more connected than ever before as we have come together to mourn our brothers and sisters who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement, created safe spaces for our pain in the form of podcasts and online communities and become voices for a new movement.
However, that doesn’t make the grieving any easier.
What we are experiencing is a great deal of loss that we, otherwise, may not have been privy to. Social media does a great job of keeping us up to date with things happening outside of our backyards but it also exposes us to a lot more trauma than usual. There was a time where we’d have to seek out stories about injustices or great losses in order to hear about them. Now, they are thrust in our faces every second of every day without any real relief. We are barely able to catch our breath before the next headline demands our attention. So, when we lose giants in our community, we all feel it. It hits us differently because we are able to truly see the magnitude of their impact. Because if you, from the city you’re from with the things you’ve experienced, can go online and see someone who looks like you but is from a totally different background as you, mourning in the exact same way that you are—you feel connected to them through the person you’ve lost. You feel less alone but somehow it also magnifies the grief. It makes you sit with it a little longer because now you are not only sifting through your own pain but also watching others sift through theirs.
It can feel like an unending amount of sorrow.
It is almost like we are in a constant state of anticipation for what may come next. It is expected that we will wake up to someone else who has left us and spend the rest of the coming days being a support system for one another. Public mourning has definitely taken a toll on many of us resulting in some sense of desensitization for some and an overstimulation for others. At the core of both survival modes is: there is nothing natural about how much pain we are being made to hold. Collective mourning does not usually turn into collective healing, no matter how many times we hear the sentiment uttered by religious leaders and politicians. Healing is truly an individual practice and each of has a responsibility to ourselves to make peace with the things that have hurt us but when we are forced to carry and tend to the hurt of those around us, literally and figuratively, it can become heavy.
When 2021 came and we were all expected to return to life as we’ve known it, the true gravity of the things we’ve been processing truly sank in for many. The year was filled with people making self-care and self-assessment part of their daily lives, for good reason. And if the start of 2022 is any indication, we should all still be making time for both in order to ensure our peace of mind and emotional regulation.
As we all seek to create and maintain a sense of community may we be vigilant about creating a sense of calm in our lives no matter the ever-changing winds of the greater collective.