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’ Five 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. I want to note that, 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. Yes, 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.
This list is just the beginning for all of us who want to increase our awareness. 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 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!
Please click on the images to access the full resources.
Leave a comment with your suggestions to add to this list!