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Grieving While Black

How therapy and faith helped me cope with the loss of my best friend.

My therapist once told me, “Grief is the price we pay for loving someone.” Those words have helped me tremendously make sense of the darkest moments of my life. It is still strange for me to write the words “my therapist.” As an African American Christian, I’ve heard all my life that therapy is not for people like me. Even as we see therapy and mental health awareness becoming more normalized with celebrity advocates and initiatives in Congress, there are still those who believe that therapy is not for us.

One of my favorite television shows right now is The Chi which chronicles the lives of African Americans in South Side Chicago. One of the protagonists is Kevin is a 13 year old who has suffered trauma from witnessing a murder, then shooting that murderer while at the same time dealing with pre-teen issues such as school, family, friends and girls. His mother decides to send him to therapy which he proclaims “is for white people.” Many people in the black community still feel this way, my own mother echoed these sentiments to me. Yet, therapy is what got me through some of the darkest moments I’ve experienced so far.

I view therapy as a tool that helps people cope through life’s trials and tribulations. When I unexpectedly lost one of my best friends at 27. I had no idea how to cope. I was taught to be a “strong black woman” I didn’t feel right taking days off of work or time to grieve. I struggled to show up at work and in relationships. I felt like I would never experience happiness again. Through therapy I learned that it was OK not to be OK.

But it wasn’t therapy alone that helped me with grief. I believe I was delivered from the darkness by faith. I kept going to church even when I did not feel like it and found comfort in messages reminded me that God is with me. I kept praying and reading scriptures such as John 11:35 which states “Jesus wept.” Even the greatest being, our messiah, wept at the loss of his friend Lazarus, knowing this helped me to let myself grieve.

Faith coupled with the the tool of therapy is how I took care of myself while grieving. I don’t believe you have to choose one or the other. If we continue to speak about this hopefully the stigma of therapy in the black community will end.

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