Updated: May 27, 2020
Pamoja: is a Swahili word for …together.
Sudden Bereavement trauma is what happens to us psychologically when we witness the violent sudden death of someone we know or even a stranger. Our brain chemistry changes the more we experience this kind of trauma. We change. Sudden bereavement trauma produces PTSD. Dr. Stephen Regel, in an March 2012 article titled PTSD Following Sudden Bereavement says “sudden bereavement trauma isn’t an illness, it’s a cause.” Those three words “it’s a cause” have set with me over the last few days as I’ve watched “the videos.” I watched a black man get chased down by two white men and shot to death in the street; I thought of those three words “it’s a cause.” I watched another video and thought of those three words; “it’s a cause.” I watched a black man be dehumanized and lied upon by a white woman for asking her to simply leash her dog; I thought of those three words “it’s a cause.” I watched another video. I watched a white mother murder her autistic son and then blame her crime on two black men. I watched another video. I watched a black man die, because a white man in a given position of authority would not take his knee off of his neck, even while a crowd gathered to plead for the life of the black man; I thought of those words “it’s a cause.”
I have watched video after video of black men dying for years. I know their names, I have stood in protest rallies full of grieving strangers who watched the same videos, all of us at that moment galvanized and connected by the violent sudden death of another young black person. Each of us, experiencing sudden bereavement trauma, corporately. Each of us, grieving. “It’s a cause.” Those words return to me. While I appreciate Dr. Regel’s work those three words seem to hint to but not clearly define the matter. He is right. Sudden Bereavement trauma is not an illness, it is a cause, but the question becomes “a cause of what?” The answer is simple. So simple that it explains why black people on average are dying at a faster rate from Covid-19, so simple that it explains why people of color are disproportionately more likely to have asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. Sudden bereavement trauma unmitigated, left to its own development, untreated causes illness. The physiology of your body changes. Trauma is making us sick!
Here is my recommendation. Let us remain outraged at injustice. Let us continue to fight for the rights of our community. It is important. It is necessary. Let us also invest in our mental state of mind. Let us find counselors, pastors, therapist, hell it could be a barber or beautician. But find someone to talk to. Do not let that trauma we are experiencing go untreated. We cannot afford to just fight. We must fight and heal at the same time. Let me say that again: we must fight and heal at the same time. We can do this. We must do this, for us! Pomoja.