What Happens to Grief Deferred?

August 30th is apparently National Grief Awareness Day in the United States.

I never knew this, but I find my discovery of this unofficial holiday quite timely for me indeed.

On Friday, the world of distinguished Black art lost actor Chadwick Boseman. King T’Challa. The Black Panther himself.

Photo Credit: AP News

It is on this same day that tens of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place.

August 28th is also the day that Emmett Till was lynched.

Monday, August 31st would have been my best friend’s 36th birthday.

I think I always hold my breath a little when the phone rings, when news breaks, or when I see a celebrity’s name trending on social media. But that’s all I do. I don’t really cry. I can’t really show any emotion or work through any stages of grief.

As a caregiver, particularly to someone living with dementia, I suppress my emotions so as not to trigger inconsolable fear or sadness in my mother. See, for someone with Frontotemporal Dementia, it can be nearly impossible for them to recognize, compartmentalize, and regulate emotional responses. Learning of the death of a loved one could lead to attempts to take one’s own life, but the death of a perfect stranger or familiar celebrity may have an equally significant impact.

As a Black woman, I have mourned in secret and wept in silence as my community lost fierce leaders for social change, iconic artists and athletes, grandmothers and aunties, brothers and sons. Whether old age, incurable disease, deadly virus, or officer-discharged bullet, 2020 feels like the era of the New Black Plague.

And I am tired.

I am tired of being too tired to cry. I am tired of being unable to fully express my feelings. I am tired of missing out on opportunities to recognize the lives of those I’ve lost in corporate celebrations, memorials, and services.

I wonder when grief will be normal again. When we will be able to lean on each other – actually reach out and touch one another – for strength and comfort. When the Earthly powers that be will agree that enough is enough and finally do the work to dismantle systemic racism, misogyny, and white supremacy, and truly cultivate social justice, racial equity, and gender equality.

I also cannot help wonder what long-term effects grief deferred will have on a Black woman’s brain.

Will it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?

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