Grief is often described as something that comes in waves, and 2020 feels like a grief tsunami. We are still in the acute trauma of two public health emergencies (COVID and racism) that are compounded throughout the U.S. by climate-change-enhanced natural disasters.
In the past month, Washington lost Sarah Leyrer, a dedicated legal aid attorney who spent her life fighting for immigrants and workers. I only knew her casually, but even casually, you could feel her warmth and compassion. Friends describe a person who went out of her way to help and support her coworkers, friends and the communities she served. Her death was a tragic accident caused because another driver had a stroke and crashed into her parked car.
It feels so unfair to lose someone in the prime of her life who fought so hard for others.
In the past month, Chadwick Boseman also died. The actor played the Black Panther and many other important Black men.
He died from cancer at only 43 years old. It can feel misplaced to mourn the loss of a stranger, but his death hits many of us hard.
The Black Panther represented the best in humanity — a leader who listened to the voices of the people he loved, saw the humanity in his enemy and made tangible changes to be and do better. Then there was the grace the superhero demonstrated by showing his enemy a sunset as he died.
Boseman and movies like “Black Panther” play a role in interrupting the unconscious bias of non-Black people. Far better sources than this white woman describe his importance to the Black community, from Nehemiah D. Frank, and Africans, from Ifeanyi Nsofor
It has been six months since the death of Breonna Taylor. The New York Times just released a documentary about her death and continues to do reporting as the details unfold.
The documentary reveals incompetence so profound it should result in the loss of numerous jobs and the loss of liberty for many. It also shows the love of family and friends. It connects us with their grief and heartbreak. It centers us in her humanity.
Grief feels like constant company for 2020: tragic and sudden death, cancer, police killings (at least 693 this year), the coronavirus, which has claimed almost 890,000 lives globally, and the West Coast literally on fire. It is hard to get through the stages of grief because of the magnitude.
If there is any good that can come from 2020, perhaps it is the way tragedy connects us.
Tragedy and public health emergencies lay bare the truth that individualism can never save us.
Our only hope is our interconnectedness.
Read more in the Sept. 16-22, 2020 issue.