Widow's Day Awareness: The Day After and A Mental Health Breakthrough From A 'Strong Black Woman'

Updated: May 1, 2020

Damn! Damn! Damn!

I’m in my feelings because it’s the day after…the day after National Widow’s Day and I feel like crap. My emotions are running hard like Florida Evans' (Esther Rolle) infamous Good Times scene when she finally acknowledged the death of her husband by intentionally dropping the punch bowl on the floor screaming, "Damn, damn, damn!" I believe this scene revamped the strong black woman ideology among urban America in a public way, but what has been done since? My widow journey surpassed five years as of February 24, 2012, and while the day (May 3rd) was founded in 2014 by, the non-profit group, Widow Wednesday, I’ve never really fully recognized this date until this year. I personally didn’t feel that it was an accurate period of expression of my personal recovery and healing. As the founder of a non-profit and online group for black women widows, my attempt on this day of reflection is to provide awareness for family, friends widows and widowers. But guess what? I noticed that the very one who wanted to encourage, uplift and shout to the world that we need to be strong, was in pain. Just when I thought I was getting on with my own life, here comes the grief stage of depression. This national day of awareness brought back unwanted emotions. Grief Stages To my surprise, one of the seven stages of grief knocked on my door that day and I opened it. How nonsensical of me to provide a welcome mat for depression. However, another stage, Reconstruction and Working Through, was also invited but this time welcomed with open arms. I’m working on this stage right now. I’ve reached out for help and I’m reconstructing myself back to wholeness with not only prayer but through acknowledgment and follow-through by way of therapy. As I read and re-read the meaning of this stage, one sentence, in particular, caught my attention: “Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.” This hit home for me. I’m so thankful to those who have reached out to me to encourage me. I’m so thankful for the widowed ladies and widowers who I have met along the way. I’m very much thankful for the day of recognition for those men and women who no longer have a spouse to love, yet the day after, I still don’t feel any better. Mental Health Not long before relaying through social media that National Widow’s Day was May 3rd, I had to come to grips with yet another period of recognition; May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I had no idea that during this time of my life, my personal battles would seemingly fall under the umbrella of a myriad of national awareness campaigns. I couldn’t be the only one feeling this way...right? The day after, I posed a question to over one hundred black women widows. I wanted to find out if I was the only one feeling this way: National Widow’s Day was yesterday…how are you ladies doing? Here are a few responses, which provided me the validation I needed, (I chimed in, too):

What is the purpose of having it when family and friends don’t reach out? Why have just one day? Why not a month? Why do I have to be strong for everyone when no one consumes my weakness? I had a beautiful day Great until John Legend’s, “Love Me Now” blasted from my car’s speakers Mine was good I’m OK I’m really in my feelings and I actually had a bad day yesterday. I realized a few things about myself that have prompted me to take a second look…it hurts. It was a better day because I was able to spend it with a few of my widow sisters... None of my family contacted me It was a good day. I was able to educate some people how to interact with people who have lost love ones. Some people just don’t know I’m in my feelings today Doing well, and you? Cynical about love, but good… Peaceful in heart and soul! #wontHedoit I'm OK but it was tough. I just received my husband's autopsy results on Monday so this week has been a little touch.

While I truly appreciate this day of recognition and awareness, I’m hoping this article sheds light on the fact that as a black woman, it does nothing for me because I still have to face tomorrow as well as thousands upon thousands of other despondent so-called Strong Black Women that are grieving on the down-low, domestic and internationally. We’re still left with the shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, reflection and loneliness. It’s up to us to acknowledge the truth about our mental health as well as acknowledge the various stages of grief. What Happens Next? As I sit here writing this, I’m in deep thought and yet, I ... -still feel empty -made an appointment with a therapist and decided to follow through this time -followed-up with a friend to inform them that I kept my promise to make an appointment, per their demanding text :-) -am drinking coffee to get me through -am waiting for a phone call or email from the therapist -feel that my hustle and flow of being strong for other black women widows has diminished -anticipate backlash Only time will tell what awaits for me in the future. The Strong Black Woman Writing this article brings back memories of an article written by Ebony.com about a young lady named Karyn Washington, founder of “For Brown Girls," #DarkSkinRedLip Project and who was a young black woman activist who led a successful, and national campaign to empower young black women. Unfortunately, Karyn blindsided the black community in 2014 at the tender age of 22 when she took her life while still mourning the death of her mother. Depression does not discriminate; we need to dig deeper in finding out the root cause of our issues because more than lik