Grief is a direct impact of racism: Eight ways to support yourself

The cyclical realities of the impact of racism, anti-Black racism and other forms of intersectional violence on our health make breathing seem like a luxury at times. The full blunt impact of racism and other forms of violence echoes heavily in our hearts, our minds, bodies and actions.

Grief is a direct result of racism and intersectional violence and it affects us physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, transnationally and transgenerationally. More importantly, not being able to fully engage in our grief is a direct outcome of chronic experiences of racist violence.

This winter, the grandmother of the deceased Colten Boushie told the New York Times: “Even to this day…I hold back on crying.”

Insoluble grief, anti-Black racism and other forms of violence that Black, Indigenous and racialized people deal with can result in chronic prolonged traumatic health issues. These issues can include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, cancer and low birth rates.

Due to anti-Black racism, Black communities’ health issues are often not taken seriously. As a result we are not given adequate and equitable health care services. Often Black community members are re-traumatized as they seek help and support for their health issues.

Our illnesses are under-researched and under-served. In order to deal with this stress, some opt out of the system entirely, only re-entering during an emergency situation.

Impacts of daily experiences of racism also include depression, anxiety, addictions and post-traumatic stress. But racism is often not discussed in mainstream health circles.

Anti-oppression psychotherapy: A trauma informed model

As an African/Black woman, anti-violence activist, health researcher, and mental health practitioner, living with a visual disability for over 20 years, I have worked with many community members dealing with health struggles directly related to anti-Black racism and other forms of intersectional violence.

I have discovered that discussions of the daily impact of racism are happening with friends, families, trusted coworkers, in our journals and sometimes in isolation.

To try and help my clients deal with this, I worked with a colleague to develop and practice an innovative model we call anti-oppression psychotherapy (AOP).

AOP addresses the delusion and confusion of trauma in the bodies and minds of the oppressed. It is a resistance and a revolutionary model that grows out of Black feminist and intersectional theories and practices.

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Specializing in the areas of intersectionality and ethics in health work; health and race; transnational Indigenous health; and anti-oppression/anti-colonial approaches to mental health, Dr. Timothy has extensive teaching experience in universities, colleges, and in social service organizations and community settings, with particular expertise in critical health theory and social justice health policy development and implementation.
Dr. Timothy prioritizes critical and creative approaches to knowledge production that reflect experiences and aspirations of migrant, refugee, African/Black diasporic, and transnational Indigenous communities. Her scholarship contributes to critical race theory by examining how factors such as gender, class, sexual orientation, gender identities, (dis)abilities, transgenerational connections, and historical and contemporary intersectional violence impact African/Black communities’ health. Dr. Timothy centers community resistance through innovative decolonizing health practices.

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