Grief is a Social Justice Issue

Supporting a Griever / Supporting a Griever : Litsa Williams

The history of grief support, like so many services, is rooted in deep systemic biases. Beginning with Freud’s claims that we need to talk about grief with therapists and Kubler-Ross’ “stages of grief”, our early cultural understanding of what it means to grieve and cope with grief came from observations of white, middle class, older adults.

The majority of grief research in the early years, and even now, overly represents straight, cis, white people rather than being inclusive of other races and ethnicities and sex and gender identities. That means in the last 40 years, our normative ideas about grief and grief support services emerged across the country based almost exclusively on that foundation. 

WYG was founded and is based in Baltimore, a majority-black city, where we have long felt the disparity between the many people grieving here and the lack of grief support resources available.

One of our hopes for WYG was that it would increase access to grief support for so many people who couldn’t access traditional grief support, all over the world. We hoped it would address various types of loss, not just death loss. Because, despite extensive research on non-death losses, many grief support programs are limited exclusively to bereavement-related grief (grief after a death). They typically don’t offer services for those grieving chronic and ambiguous losses.

Non-death, chronic and ambiguous losses often disproportionality impact communities of color, and yet the support for these types of grief are absent in the communities that need them most. But ultimately, we are still a white-run organization that knows we need to be more thoughtful, more deliberate, and aware of our own limitations and biases in the support we offer. 

Grief and Race: The smallest of first steps

Seven years after founding WYG, we are still aware that movement is slow in ensuring that grief research, narratives, and support programs are representative of and available to all who need them.

There is a need for more research and more grief programs and services. But as we work on those issues as a grief support community, one small thing that we can all do right now is seek out more information and voices that represent grief experiences outside of our own. This is important for all of us, and it is especially important for grief professionals.

We need to begin by recognizing our own biases that come from the education we had and our experiences with grief. The voices online that dominate the grief space are, unfortunately, not very diverse. Us included!

We don’t represent the global experience of grief. So here at WYG, we are working to becoming more deliberate about sharing other articles, books, podcasts, research, and voices of people who have been underrepresented in grief support. 

Today we are focusing on black grief and mourning, sharing resources by primarily black people (with a few researchers mixed in). Over time we will be doing other posts highlighting other groups that have been underrepresented.

We are just getting a list started to help all of us who want to increase our awareness to have a place to start. This is the START of a list. We are by no means experts and we know there are probably many great books, articles, podcasts, and information that we are missing.

If you know of others, please leave them in the comments and we will keep updating this list! And if you have other ideas on how WYG can be better at representing a better range of grief experiences, leave a comment about that too! 

For anyone and everyone (written or recorded for the general public):

For anyone and everyone (but written more for clinicians and academics):

Leave a comment with your suggestions to add to this list!

Let’s be grief friends.

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8 Comments on "Grief is a Social Justice Issue"

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  1. Ajai Blue-Saunders  October 2, 2020 at 4:04 pm Reply

    I’m a widow who’s black. I speak out and clearly am applauded for doing so. This shouldn’t be. I was also a part of a recent PBS documentary – where my daughter and I shared our grief journey without our dad/husband.
    I also run a widows group at a local funeral home where the attendees are majority white.
    I’m extremely interested in the “why” behind the lack of Black widows in support groups online or in person? I’m still seeking my own answers but glad WYG is having discussions too!

  2. Suzanne  August 31, 2020 at 10:48 pm Reply

    I would love to find guidance in grieving a wrongly convicted Sex Offender. In this case, rape, the judge sentenced the defendant to 4 months in county jail and 5 years alcohol restricted probation. Clearly, the judge saw an alcoholic before her, not a criminal.
    The public however, saw this person as a “rapist,” a pariah, prejudged. Being labeled as such is a death sentence. The rejection and inability to have a life to any degree wore him down. Covid was the final straw, all hope was totally gone. He surrendered to the inevitable, he drank himself into the grave. Tragic. He was disenfranchised in life and now, in death, as well.
    RSO’s are throw away people in this society. Even when you’re innocent.

  3. Valerie Myers  June 29, 2020 at 11:20 am Reply

    Please add to your list: African American Grief authors: Paul C. Rosenblatt and Beverly R. Wallace

  4. Lisa  June 17, 2020 at 1:54 pm Reply

    Thank for sharing great resources. My name is Pastor Lisa. I have reached out before, and I have not heard from anyone. I am an African-American female. Many websites only focus on white people. Other cultures grieve and they grieve differently.

    I would like to discuss possible oppprtunities to collaborate with you. Not being able to grieve stems from slavery. Not only in communities of color, but also in faith communities! I think it is something we should and can address together. Please reach out to me!

    Thank you,


  5. Luz  June 16, 2020 at 3:58 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for acknowledging the whiteness of your org and of many of the resources out there–and doing the work to compile a list….Was sending a friend some resources I had found semiuseful years ago immediately after my mother’s death including yours. I had given her the warning that many assume white, middle classness. and checked out your site again- so glad I did!

  6. Janice Zurlo  June 9, 2020 at 11:08 am Reply

    I cannot wait to explore all this great information to make me more empathic grief worker.

  7. Marjun Nolsoe Blishen  June 8, 2020 at 6:46 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for this. So helpful!

    • Jennifer  April 25, 2021 at 12:18 am Reply

      I find your site and the comments odd (All the emphasison black grief). I just lost my parents 30 days apart. It is very difficult to say the least. I don’t care if you are black, white, purple or green. I just need support! I am brown by the way.

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