Sharing the story of grief

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“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 Black community.”

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 usually no.”

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

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