If you watch the news, you are well aware that it feels like each week seems to bring a new set of horrors and stressors. If it’s not white supremacists targeting Black communities or a school full of young people or doctors at a hospital, we must digest stories of police officers shooting Black and Latino civilians first and asking questions later. And as the summer months approach, we have more neighborhood killings of young Black people who are sometimes in the wrong place at the wrong time and caught in neighborhood squabbles or all out wars. With all this violence surrounding us, in addition to the perpetual losses due to COVID, my question is, “How are we to process and move through this supreme amount of loss that surrounds us?”Many years ago, I lost my maternal aunt, grandmother, and grandfather in the span of two weeks. The feeling of loss was all encompassing. The feeling of grief was so large it was as if I could not feel any grief at all. I hate to say I am nearing that point. It seems like each day there is a new story about a community who has lost someone due to senseless violence, which has become such a common occurrence, many of those stories barely make the news and if they do, they don’t remain in our collective imagination for more than a few days.
So, what are we to do with all that we are presently enduring? I wish I had an answer. I do know that I am trying to find and hold on to all the joy and beauty that surrounds me on a daily basis, that helps me stay present and not get too overwhelmed with the constant thought of grieving families and communities. So many people are living through the unimaginable and besides donating to particular causes, I wish I could do more.
A mentor once told me that all of life is a series of losses. We have lost friends over time. We’ve lost objects we’ve loved. We lose so many things on any given day, life is indeed an exercise of triumphing over loss. This is a unique concept I am still struggling to fully embrace. However, if I see life as a vessel of loss, it helps me pay attention to all the things and all of the people around me so I can appreciate them even more. I am still working through this concept and will likely need more time to fully articulate the ever present and all-encompassing concept of loss.
Until then, I will continue to do my part to support communities struggling to find a sense of normalcy after their tragic and unexpected losses. One day and one action at a time.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.