Grieving While Black: An Antiracist Take on Oppression and Sorrow (Paperback)
Typically, when we reference grief work in relation to anti-Blackness, people think about the grief experienced by those oppressed by white supremacy. But Breeshia Wade encourages those who are not Black to consider how their own unexplored grief amplifies the suffering of Black people.
Most of us understand grief as sorrow experienced after a loss—the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a change in life circumstance. Breeshia Wade approaches grief as something that is bigger than what's already happened to us—as something that is connected to what we fear, what we love, and what we aspire toward. Drawing on stories from her own life as a Black woman and from the people she has midwifed through the end of life, she connects sorrow not only to specific incidents but also to the ongoing trauma that is part and parcel of systemic oppression.
Wade reimagines our relationship to power, accountability, and boundaries and points to the long-term work we must all do in order to address systemic trauma perpetuated within our interpersonal relationships. Each of us has a moral obligation to attend to our own grief so that we can responsibly engage with others. Wade elucidates grief in every aspect of our lives, providing a map back to ourselves and allowing the reader to heal their innate wholeness.
About the Author
BREESHIA WADE holds a BA in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University and an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago. She completed Upaya Zen Center's two-year Buddhist chaplaincy program.
Wade served as a hospice and palliative care end-of-life caregiver in Los Angeles County. Over the past five years, she has supported people through grief and transitions as a birth doula and a lay-ordained Buddhist chaplain working in jails, on the mother and baby units of hospitals, and in people's homes. Wade uses her practice as an end-of-life caregiver to encourage those who are not facing illness, death, or dying to be open to what grief can teach them about relationship, life, failure, sex, and desire.
She wishes to expand the world's conception of grief beyond concrete loss and to call attention to the numerous ways our experiences of grief impact the way we (mis)understand power, craft self-image, and approach boundaries, conflict, and accountability.
"Grieving While Black expands the notion of grief beyond its quick association with death to examine all of the spiritual and psychological tolls of racism and sexism. By drawing on her experiences as a birth doula and chaplain, Breeshia Wade complicates grief itself by exploring different forms of loss while also imagining a path toward healing. A bracing, illuminating read."
—BRIT BENNETT, author of the New York Times best sellers The Vanishing Half and The Mothers
"... Grieving While Black tackles grief through the lens of race and racism. At its core is the understanding that grief is intrinsically tied to racial identity and systems of discrimination."
"Every page in this slim volume is a revelation. Read slowly—and more than once."
"This is a remarkable book, written bravely, wisely, and honestly, for all of us. Page after page, I learned about grief, race, and justice—and, most importantly, about liberation. I will return to Grieving While Black for the rest of my life."
—JOAN HALIFAX, PhD, Zen teacher, social activist, and abbot of Upaya Zen Center
"Breeshia Wade has written a moving testament to the power of grief and healing at the intersection of generational loss, race, and sexuality. This book is a must-read for anyone looking to enact compassionate antiracism in their activism and in their lives.”
—SARAH VALENTINE, PhD, author of When I Was White
“As Black people, one of our widest gateways to freedom is our very own grief. In the way many Black women have stood as protectors and have held out their hands, Wade stands at this gateway, arms open, inviting us into a meadow where we can take our time, acknowledge our loss, and allow our grief to lead us into wellness. Take your time and sip on this one.”
—ZENJU EARTHLYN MANUEL, author of The Deepest Peace and The Way of Tenderness
"Breeshia Wade has given us an important book. She speaks with deep awareness and compassion, and from intimate knowledge about grief and chaplain work with the grieving. This book also explicates the . . . value of Buddhist meditation—a practice of awareness, not merely a tool for relaxation and peace. Wade writes throughout with true beauty and power informed by moving stories from her own life and sophistication about how we may be caught or freed from habitual societal patterns."
—TAIGEN DAN LEIGHTON, guiding Dharma teacher of Ancient Dragon Zen Gate in Chicago, and author of Faces of Compassion and Zen Questions
"Grieving While Black emerges from the depths of the writer’s soul—as a human being, a Black woman, a Southern-Baptist-raised practicing Buddhist, and advocate, guide, and caretaker for families who are in various states of emotional dishevelment. At a moment in human history where so many people are awakening to racial injustice, this book is a valuable resource to help us cultivate compassion, grieving, and healing together."
—STEPHEN MURPHY-SHIGEMATSU, lecturer in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University, and author of From Mindfulness to Heartfulness