“Grief is universal,” said Ronnika Williams of Benton
Harbor. “Everyone can identify with stories of loss,
suffering, frustration, and grief. But it’s not always
easy or comfortable to talk about, especially in the
Ronnika is working to help change that fact with The Final
48 Project, a platform for story sharing, coping with grief,
and caring for mental health in the Black community.
“How many people are actually suffering in silence?”
asked Ronnika. “Instead of suppressing our feelings,
we need space to talk about our grief.”
The initial idea for the project arose after Ronnika’s
father died seven years ago.
“It was very hard for me to talk about losing my father,”
said Ronnika. “I started asking friends if anyone else
talked about their grief stories. And the answer was
Ronnika says it is common to no longer discuss grief
after the funeral is over. But she knew she needed a
way to further express her own deep sorrow. So, she
and her sister went to a local grief support group where
they noticed something profound right away. No one
else from their community was in attendance.
This realization was the start of a journey Ronnika
has been on ever since: The Final 48 Project and her
partnership with Lory’s Place, an affiliate of Spectrum
Health Lakeland that provides free grief education and
support to community members.
“There is power in supporting those with grief stories
and really listening to them. I continue with this project,
because I know it can empower and help others,” she
shared. “Lory’s Place is also here for us and will walk
with us during this journey if we are willing to connect
with them, share stories, and find comfort in hearing
the stories of others.”
Although grief can come from a personal loss like
Ronnika’s, she noted that it’s also important to
recognize that it can come from other events, like the
murder of George Floyd earlier this year. No matter the
cause, it’s important that grief is expressed openly.
To learn more about or participate in Ronnika’s grief
story share project, visit final48.org.
Lory’s Place provides grief support groups that allow children and adults to interact
with others who have suffered similar loss, or who are experiencing anticipatory
grief. Lory’s Place also offers a school outreach program and peer grief supports in
elementary, middle, and high school. All services are provided at no cost.
Learn more at lorysplace.org