In The Know and the women behind Black Girl Podcast have teamed up to bring you a special video series, Enter the Chat, where we’ll be discussing topics that range from dating and budgeting to self-care.
Throughout the last year, people have undoubtedly seen and experienced loss. In this week’s episode of Enter The Chat, Black Girl Podcast hosts Scottie Beam, Alysha P., Bexx Francois, Gia Peppers and Sapphira M. discuss grief with board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Jessica Clemons.
To kick off the discussion, Dr. Clemons gives everyone a definition of grief.
“Grief is a normal reaction to loss,” she says. “I think we all think about grief when there’s a death, we think about holding space for someone to grieve through that major loss, but it can occur with really any loss that a person has.”
Clemens says that grief has five stages, including depression, bargaining, denial, anger and acceptance, which is ultimately the goal. Plus, Dr. Clemons explains that there’s no particular order in which a person can experience each stage.
“You can float through any of those stages at any point during the process.”
The Different Types of Grief
Alysha brings up the loss of her father and ponders if bargaining is a common grief stage that people spend the most time in.
“Losing my father, personally, it took me a very long time to remove the back-and-forth of things that I could’ve done differently to possibly keep him here.”
Gia offers a different perspective of grief regarding how life has drastically changed for people in the pandemic. Plus, she mentions how there are those grieving their own sense of self, as well as their idea of normalcy.
“What are some initial steps to take there?” she asks. “I can only imagine the trauma we’ll all have to deal with after experiencing a year like this.”
Dr. Clemons says it starts with an awareness of your own grief, regardless of the type of loss you’ve experienced.
“We have this tendency, especially as Black women, to compare our experiences to others, and then somehow we want to say ‘well my situation isn’t as bad, so this can’t possibly be a feeling that I should have.'”
Dr. Clemons adds that making time to talk about your grief also helps. Even if it’s something as simple as missing a holiday with the family, you should still grieve the loss.
“Don’t just let it pass,” she explains. “What do you miss? What are those things you wish you could have gotten? That processing, that space will allow you to begin to go through those stages at your own pace.”
Letting Go of Trauma
Scottie breaks from the discussion by offering up the idea of relief from traumas. Additionally, she explains how trauma can become a part of oneself.
“You now have to figure out who you are without that trauma,” she says. “I always wanted to know once you feel like you lose a piece of yourself — and that is grieving — does that process look different?”
Dr. Clemens explains that the process remains the same, but the work is different. Ultimately, she says working to identify what makes you who you are after the loss is key.
“My hope is that when people are grieving is that they look at this almost like being a phoenix coming out of the fire,” she says. “Yes, it is my hope that people could find joy, but I also don’t want to diminish if a person isn’t [finding joy], because it is a process.”
Dr. Clemons on Helping Others Grieve
When it comes to being the person helping another through grief, there are healthy ways of doing so. Dr. Clemons explains that you shouldn’t bear all of the other person’s problems, but you can be supportive while also setting boundaries.
“You’re going to go into it knowing how long you’re going to be in conversation with this person,” Dr. Clemons starts. “You’re going to go into it when you’re in a space where you’re not feeling overwhelmed or weighed down.”
Dr. Clemons also notes that as the person offering support, you’re not supposed to have the answer to the griever’s problem. All you have to do is give them the space to share.
“Your job, in that case, is to be supportive, to listen and to listen to understand.”
Some of the places Dr. Clemons recommends for help are Therapy for Black Girls, inclusivetherapists.com, which offers support to people of various marginalized groups, and Nami for those who prefer group therapy.
Follow Black Girl Podcast on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can also shop any of the Black-owned pieces in the set design on Enter The Chat from THNWBLK, Signature Petals, LIT BKLYN, Crackflower, Modern Pearl Primus Poster and “Identity Crisis” Canvas Print.
If you liked this story, check out the women behind Black Girl Podcast on attraction, self-love and body positivity.
More from In The Know: