Grief: The politics of grief, loss and healing
In the past years, most of us have experienced deep loss and emotional trauma that has put some of us in disarray. We are grieving many lives, many experiences, and many unexpressed pains. We are all in a state of collective grief from everything that has been going on since 2020 and even before that, we are in a continuous state of shock and pain.
In the past two years, a lot of us have experienced a hyper level of isolation, state-sanctioned police violence, constant exposure to traumatic incidents on both personal and collective levels, and the COVID-19 pandemic of course continue to rock us into a heavy personal and collective grief. We have been isolated in our homes which for a lot of women has also been a core reason for exacerbated intimate tension and sometimes even violence while we were isolated from the communities we have spent years intentionally building around us for this type of situation.
Whether or not we have personally lost a family member to covid-19, most of us have lost something tangible and valuable to us during this pandemic, it could be our livelihood, our idea of self, our income, our ways of our lives in how we interact or engage with the community and what we look for in our sacred communities. We are grieving many facets of ourselves and those that we hold dear to us.
What is grief?
Grief is the deepest state of pain, distress, and emotional turmoil we experience after a bereavement or loss of life, people, and things we value.
Looking at how the pandemic has globally caused the death of almost 7 million people and causes more people to either lose their jobs, their partners, their friends, or their own family members, we can only prepare for how this pandemic will evolve as we continue to live in it in the coming years with ineffective public health campaign and lack of government responsibilities in protecting the entire population.
The pandemic also highlighted many violent ways people outside of the heteronormative sphere are treated in our society. The rise in violence against Trans and LGBTQI+ people whether by the large community or the state itself through rudimental archaic policy proposals like the case of our Ghanaian siblings, or the case of how many Nigerians marginalised and ostracized LGBTQ protesters during the October 2020 #Endsars movement and the many lives that were lost to people in our community not having the care and nurture they deserve, the lives we lost to the senseless violence of people who take the lives of our queer siblings due to their homophobic violence and how do we heal from the constant violence that seems so impossible to embody and release?
The healing modalities and rituals we have learned to deal with death, have been rendered useless to us in the past three years, we have not been able to come together, cry, grieve and support those who are grieving as we normally do in communities due to the pandemic and the separation that was required to curb the spread of covid-19. One thing that became very obvious during this time is that we are not only experiencing a public health crisis but also a crisis in leadership and the exacerbation of already existing gender-based violence in our society as well as the capitalistic failure of a hyper individual society.
In a society that already outsources the burden of care exclusively to women, we are seeing women and especially women activists being overworked, isolated, burdened with their grief, loss, and the collective pain of those they are called to support in these turbulent times. Women are also more likely to be in precarious situations even before the pandemic, they hold low-paid jobs, which means that they are more likely to live in poverty. At this time of crisis, they are also less likely to be able to get any support from society as they are seen as the strongholds of our society, invincible and sometimes even selfish for asking for any sort of support.
The covid-19 pandemic is still ongoing, it is pertinent that we speak of this crisis as a multidimensional one as it does not only touch one aspect of life in our communities but also touches our ability to depend on others, on our leaders and amplifies the failure of our healing infrastructures. We have failed as a society to protect the most vulnerable and this crisis has increasingly proven to us that we cannot leave people behind as everything in our society is interconnected and thus requires a holistic approach to work.
With the isolation of the pandemic, comes depression, and loneliness in most of society but most especially, for example, we saw an almost 40% increase in the cases of teenage pregnancy across Kenya during the lockdown, this can be due to the lack of access to sexual and reproduction health service to girls and women around the region. With many countries diverting their healthcare and financial resources toward the covid19 pandemic, most social services to women and girls that were already limited tremendously decreased, and most of the girls and women that needed these services were impacted, most especially those who are already living in poverty.
What can we do now?
As we are slowly adapting to life in this pandemic, we need to first acknowledge the personal and collective grief most of us are experiencing from a feminist lens and with a radical urgency to heal, hold space and urgently create safe spaces for women, girls, and the larger community to seek support, especially from services that can be trusted or that have already created rapport in order to build stronger activists communities in our communities.
We need to make space for healing and collectively acknowledgment of the millions of lives lost whether to the pandemic itself or the increased state-sanctioned violence against certain bodies in our society that were exacerbated by the pandemic, much of the rise in police brutality in different sections of our community, increased death caused by domestic violence, increased violence against trans and queer people like we saw in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and many other parts of the world.
We need to advocate for women people, people with disabilities, queer people, and young girls to get access to a transformative healing space that supports them through the acknowledgment of the accumulated collective grief, the loss, and the pain as well as facilitating healing space for the communities of activists and healers in all these communities.
We can be innovative, nurturing as we create alternative digital communities of solidarities in different regions of the African continent and the diaspora, we must collectively come to acknowledge what was lost, how we grieve together and individually as well as create alternative healing infrastructures that are ancestral, sustainable and interdependent.
We must pull from the pool of our ancestral feminist ancestors, elders and learn how we can best hold space of healing as we are inherently moving in a new direction that will hold space for all our siblings without living anyone behind or uncared for, our healing infrastructures must be sustainable, radical and transformational.
This article was by written Adéọlá Naomi Adérè̩mí as part of the Emerging from Crisis: Building Feminist Realities Campaign by The GBV Prevention Network