Leaning Into Grief

Leaning Into Grief

By Sabrina N'Diaye

September/October 2021

As an African American woman from New York City now living in Baltimore, Maryland, I saw COVID hit my communities hard. The summer of 2020 death toll was reminiscent of the 1990’s AIDS epidemic. My friends were dropping like flies, and I was doing a lot of grief work with clients and the countless mind–body–spirit groups I conducted online.

My capacity for holding people in their grief was strengthened through my years of working with addicts. They die—a lot. Client funerals are part of the work. So I’ve learned to let grief run through me, and never run from the reality of my heart’s need to shed tears over the loss of yet another beautiful soul. I don’t run from my own sorrow. Instead, I greet it. I’ve found it’s impossible to love deeply without it.

Every April, I hold an annual forgiveness retreat. This year’s was online. During a break from our meeting, I jumped on Facebook, where a notice about one of my dearest friends appeared. There was her picture, and under it, a note that she was dead.

I ran upstairs, bawling like crazy, seeking the loving comfort of my husband’s arms. I only had 15 minutes before I had to go back to the group. When I returned, I was slightly calmer, but I didn’t hold back the news.

I kept my camera on (and looked a bit of a mess) as I shared. They got it. And they were tearing up with me. While I was processing the news, my mind went to those news images of all the COVID bodies covered in sheets or zipped into body…

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