April 23, 2021 | RJSH

let’s say F* that to disenfranchised grief

Gabe Pierce

“I’m sorry and sorrier that sorry is rarely enough.”

Kiese Laymon, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays

Borrowing from the words of writer and author Kiese Laymon, we’re sorry and sorrier that sorry is rarely enough. This letter comes to you on the heels of the Atlanta shooting, followed rapidly by the Boulder shooting; we’re still wading through Derek Chauvin’s re-traumatizing trial, and now living through the horrific state-sanctioned murder of Daunte Wright by Minnesota police, Adam Toledo by Chicago police, and Mah’Kia Bryant by Columbus police. We’re not the ones to be apologizing for this relentless violence of white supremacist systems and actors but we are still sorry. Sorry for your trauma, pain, sorrows, and fears. Sorry for our collective grief.

It seems that apologies in the form of condolences are all we’re left with, and yet, apologies do little in the face of real concrete and material harm and violence. And the people who should be apologizing, well — we’re not holding our breath nor waiting.

As we facilitate racial healing and justice sessions across industry sectors and geographies, it’s clear that we’re all hurting in our own ways. As practitioners at the intersection of DEI x mental health, we find ourselves without many gracious or affirming words of comfort, feeling our own intimate and collective racial(ized) traumas compounding without end.

We’ve been critically reflecting on our roles as practitioners in this space: Are we doing enough in the work of liberation and healing? Are we practicing abolition on the small scales and in our radical imaginations? Or are we maintaining the status quo and tricking ourselves into reformist visions that only continue to uphold white supremacy?

In other words, have we (in the DEI and mental health fields) lost our way?

In many ways, yes.

So what now?

As we move through these next few weeks, months, years, we will no doubt experience more griefs compounding in different shapes and forms. These may be visceral, subtle, unnoticed, and perhaps, even unspoken. Let us no longer disenfranchise our own grief and speak loudly about our pain, rage, and sorrows. Disenfranchised grief (aka hidden grief) is that unacknowledged by society or invalidated by social norms. We say F* that.

We saw this quote from Jess Denham on IG last night and felt that double whammy for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and Mah’Kia Bryant:

One of the many things about grief that isn’t talked about enough is the ‘double whammy.’ How you feel two griefs and not one. There’s your own grief. Missing them in your life. But the grief you feel for them—for everything they are missing and will miss—can be tough.

We thought of Daunte, Adam, and Mah’Kia and how much more life they had to live, the many firsts they should’ve experienced, the magic and tenderness of being alive and aging and loving and hurting. Racism isn’t just about what’s lost now, but all that is stolen from the future: a person’s future, a future with that person in it.

Let us grieve, rage, and shake. Let us remember that these too, are forms of survival, a way for us to love each other deeply, to commit to each other entirely.

and, now