I got word, while concluding my workday that our dancing soul brother tWitch, DJ for “Ellen DeGeneres” show committed suicide. I walked away from the news with complete disbelief. As we wonder, pray, and send love and light to his family I was compelled to write. Just as this unfortunate news hits our community, I have been repeating in my head, “how y’all healing?” Frankly, I was already suspended in deep reflection, for my own sake; in turn, I wanted to share a piece of my story in order to shed light on the prioritization of healing. While this pandemic has taught us many lessons on life and has demanded masking as a means of protection, one thing we can’t mask– for long– is pain! While social media has the ability to display all the glam, glory, and glitter of life – our hearts and minds will take a heavy beating if we don’t address our pain.
Last year around this very timing, I endured a heavy heart while a loved one was in the hospital. By the end of December 2022, I lost a beautiful soul, ended up catching COVID (for the 1st time of the pandemic) and had to prevail at continuing my dissertation. I worked laboriously to heal, recover, and rest in between. My adult children and I were hit with COVID-19; what I had been conscientiously avoiding, the virus, finally caught us. My son is immunocompromised because of kidney transplant medications. So, I feared more negative outcomes from the virus. I exhausted all wit and wisdom to clear the virus from our home.
As I reflect, testing positive for COVID, resulted in the disruption and distraction of my grieving–for ten days! Immediately upon my recovery, I’d have episodes of crying. A picture, a memory, or even talking about my loss was hard. The strength I carried was derived from knowing how much she loved me, the rich conversations I have holistically downloaded, and knowing I could carry her love forward.
I attempted to get therapy, but to be quite honest, I had limited time to find a Black therapist. Unfortunately, the therapist I met with just couldn’t relate. She couldn’t relate to my adamancy of not stopping with my doctoral program and that my completion was for more than myself.
I was doing it for the culture, my ancestors and for the Black and Brown children I serve as an educator. I was dealing with grief yet determined to not stop writing my dissertation. She had a hard time understanding why pausing, as a Black woman doctoral candidate wasn’t an option–not for me. And please don’t get me wrong – ask anyone and they will tell you I am a huge advocate and cheerleader for self-care and rest.
However, I intended to graduate in Spring 2022. I had too much more to accomplish to put graduation on hold. So, you know what? I delved into writing, reading and resting like it was a full time job. Head first. While I thankfully “finishEdD” and entered the small threshold of Black women with doctorate degrees, what I realized is this: it was a full preoccupation from sitting with my grief. My beloved lost one cheered me on so much, repeatedly asking my graduation date. I had so many others waiting to cheer me on. All I could hear, in my head, as I powered through, were echoes of all the affirming voices.
I share this testimony to share a lesson, preoccupation might be productive, but it is not healing! I took up gardening as a means to heal. I continued to pour into my family and community as a means to heal. Yet, this December was triggering for me as it has been a reminder of losing a loved one. So, my first step has been to acknowledge it and to become intentional about choosing not just joy but actual actions to release the pain. Pain can drain your energy and I can’t afford to have anything harming my health. I have prioritized walking and established goals of daily movement for this entire month. Each week I’ve increased my step accomplishments!
As we close out this year, I have some things to offer about healing: Please don’t mask your pain. Take up something healthy to release the energy you feel from the pain. Tap into an accountability partner that will check on you and vice versa. When you can change your environment, a new café or city awaits you. Explore new hobbies or interests within your free time. Make time for yourself and be as intentional about your time as you are about your money. Love your family, friends, and community hard and embrace the love in return. Laugh more, dance more, be more honest with yourself and your loved ones about what you need. Write an affirmation that you can use as a compass, “I will heal!”
What I am learning about true healing is that it takes time, reflection and looking at life’s lessons. It takes realizing that some of life lessons are actual blessings to teach us how to do better and understand better as we march forward in life. What I know with living faith is that we were placed on this earth with reason and for a purpose. Everyone will navigate life and hit a rainy or cloudy season, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be intentional about bringing our own sun into our life. Dig deep, plant new seeds of intentionality, hydrate yourself and shine your light! The tunnel has an opening space – and if you can’t find it ask for help. Much love and peace to you.