We close shut our eyes and pretend the impact of past experiences are closed chapters, yet residual pain hibernates. Triggers are often little whispers of our suffering. The long-term impact of trauma on our physical being, in most cases, we silence. In an effort to find my way through the suffering I exposed life’s clutter and evaluated my life in totality, soon realizing loss is my trauma. Our refusal or inability to deal with our own suffering does not extinguish it but merely subverts it or in my case converts it into hypertension and anxiety.
The murder of George Floyd triggers deep pain and suffering in most Black Americans. And we wonder why so many of us have hypertension? His murder brings to light the anxiety I feel around losing Black men in my life. Restless, angry, hurt, disappointed…… this weekend I couldn’t sleep from hearing George Floyd yell, “mama, mama.” Whether dead or alive, mamas are our superheroes. It’s hard to believe moms can’t always make “it” better.” His cry translates, in my eyes, “mama, God… fix THIS!”
When my heart aches and life kicks my ass. I too cry for mama. I don’t deal with loss well, especially the loss of the men in my life. I have not lost a family member to police violence, but the fear is there. Suicide, homicide, yes. That’s enough. Most Black families in America fear the loss of a loved one to violence, racism and/or both.
In 2008, within 6 months, I lost three family members and a best friend. All Black men. That year would set the tone which molded the next 12 years of my life, causing me hypertension and anxiety. This is my 2008 in a nutshell:
- April – Had a five hour surgery in which 3 surgeons removed endometrial tissue that had attached to all of my womanly organs and bladder. I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis and adenomyosis. True diagnosis…infertility . Loss – what felt like my womanhood.
- May – my first cousin, Big Dave was shot and killed around the corner from his home. Loss-my big, loveable, kind cuzo.
- May – flew to California to see my god-father who was dying of colon-cancer. He lost his battle with cancer during my visit. Loss – my familial partner in crime.
- September – My loving uncle died by suicide. Loss – the family member who was my weird counterpart.
- October – Jody, a dear friend, died of an asthma attack at a party. He had asked me to go, but I was too tired. I often wonder if I had gone to that party would he still be here? Loss – my heart.
- October/November – My boyfriend at the time was overwhelmed by all these losses. He left. Loss – love.
The following year my little cousin, Big Daves son, was shot and killed a block away from where Dave died. Over the years I have dealt with each loss individually, but not as a collective. The losses I experienced in 2008 would haunt me for over a decade. Being a Black woman in this country goes without saying that I worry about the Black men in my life; their safety, their physical and mental health. When someone is taken from you traumatically the body usually stores the fear and internalizes the pain. The body stores trauma. As the three men who knew me the best were gone, there was a deep void….my spirit broken. God seemed to somehow take away the men I loved. Trying to live an intentional life and move forward I held tight, holding on for dear life. Hence, hypertension surfaced.
Being intentional, I decided it was high time to work on my relationship with a couple of the remaining men in my family; my father and brother, Phillip. I had male friends, but like most of the men in my life they became consumed with their own families. So…. I suffocated the men I dated. I held on too tight to all the men I dated from 2009-2017, all of whom were Black men; I worried about their entire existence, their health, their safety. Will God surely take this one away too? And he did. Poor men! To my exes who are reading this, I recite to you the Ho’oponopono prayer:
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Each failed relationship felt like a death. My breakup in 2017 was the catalyst for an overdue breakdown. Loss… trauma relived. I couldn’t take another loss. I took a year to grieve, dated a little but felt broken beyond repair. November 2018 I made the choice to sort through the clutter, losses, loneliness and attachment.
With the death of George Floyd it’s clear my fears of loss will never subside. Since 2008, late night calls cause internal hysteria, “who has died?.” My great nephews growing up in Kentucky in questionable environments, we all pray for their safety and protection. My big brother, the patriarch of the family……protect him and keep him safe. My cousins, friends, nephews, dad, my only living uncle, and my father’s sons all could easily fall victim to racism and violence. I am no longer clinging due to the fear of someone walking out of my life, instead I have genuine concern and fear…. emotions that frame the Black experience. Unapologetically…if I marry a Black man whenever he steps his big toe out of the front door I will worry about how he navigates racism in this country. That feeling is unavoidable.
My emotional clutter may be lighter, but there is residual trauma still in possession of my body. Despite practicing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness my body still recognizes the trauma via hypertension and endometriosis. As I continue to acknowledge and process the fear of loss I hope my mind/body gives me some reprieve for acceptance and acknowledgment. As I tuck myself in, bonnet to pillow, I will continue to hear George Floyd’s cry for his mama; a reminder the fight to end racism, violence and health disparities continues….. adding to the trauma that lives deep inside the bodies of so many Black people. Unfortunately, mama can’t fix this.