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. Those chronic and ambiguous losses often disproportionality impact communities of color, and yet the support for this 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 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):
- The Disappearance of a Distinctively Black Way to Mourn
- Black Women Get Real About Grief
- When Grief and Crises Intersect: Perspectives of a Black Physician in the Time of Two Pandemics
- Grief is a double-edged sword. Here’s how to use it for good
- Sunday Read: The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning on The Daily podcast
- Can I Grieve? Letting Grief Have Its Place In Our Healing
- Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title
- Suffocated grief & supporting black youth – Dr. Tashel Bordere on the Grief Out Loud podcast.
- Grieving While Black: How therapy and faith helped me cope with the loss of my best friend.
- The unbearable grief of black mothers
- Hummingbird in the Trenches
- May brought a glaring accrual of trauma and grief to black communities
- Psychology, Grief and African Americans
- Early family deaths may create “grief gap” for blacks
- I Will Follow: Grief and Loss in an African-American Context
Trailer for the film discussed in the article above:
For anyone and everyone (but written more for clinicians and academics):
- Handbook of Social Justice in Loss and Grief (warning: this is a text book, so it is pricey, but you may be able to find it at your library!)
- African Americans In Bereavement: Grief As a Function of Ethnicity
- Traumatic loss in low-income communities of color
- The use of pathological grief outcomes in bereavement studies on African Americans
- Black Male Grief Through the Lens of Racialization and Oppression: Effective Instruction for Graduate Clinical Programs
- Cultural responses to loss and grief among Black Americans: Theory and practice implications for clinicians
- Racial Disproportionality and Disparity in Child Welfare
- From Mourning to Action: African American Women’s Grief, Pain, and Activism
Leave a comment with your suggestions to add to this list!