How to Deal with Loss, Grief and Bereavement as a Black Woman
A young lonely Black woman stands in a crowd

Loss, Grief and Bereavement can take place in many forms; learn how and how best to cope with counsellor Fiona Reynolds.

9 January 2024 

By Hannah Uguru

From Monday, 29 January 2024, The Maya Centre will run a series of free loss, grief and bereavement workshops for Black women based in Islington to explore the diverse circumstances of loss and how to best cope. Whether this loss shows up as the death of a loved one, the end of a significant relationship, unemployment, separation from your home or something else, we are here to support the grieving process. These sessions will be delivered over eight weeks from the starting date, every Monday from 11am to 12:30pm, at our Elthorne Road headquarters, and Black women who wish to take part can register here.  

Speaking on the importance of these kinds of spaces is our Black women’s project co-lead and counsellor Fiona Reynolds, who will be facilitating the loss, grief and bereavement series. Pulling from her wealth of experience leading many types of psychoeducational activities, she shares, “Psychoeducation workshops are a wonderful place to gain greater knowledge. As a therapist, it’s educational, uplifting and fulfilling to witness clients go through the various stages of recognition of their circumstances and how to cope. The goal of any counselling group is for clients to gain resources and skills on how to manage their experiences, which can be carried forward in their personal lives.” 

Within the context of grief, loss and bereavement, a study on ethnic differences in Palliative and Supportive Care in the UK found that Black Caribbean respondents more commonly reported socio-economic factors, such as financial, legal and housing problems during bereavement at noticeably higher rates than their white counterparts. In the same study, these factors were linked to worsened mental health outcomes for this community, with a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression. Further research from PLoS One also shows that Black Caribbean people go through bereavement at a significantly younger age than white respondents, with 80% of Black Caribbean relatives who registered a death being under 54, compared to 48% of white relatives. Within these groups, a respective 72% and 62% were female, indicating that women shoulder the burden of end-of-life care in both communities.  

Furthermore, observations among Bangladeshi groups from the same PLoS One report show that practitioners with “a similar cultural background, and hence an appreciation and understanding of beliefs, practices and the expression of grief” may be more appropriate. Unfortunately, limited study on racialised bereavement care in the UK exists, so data on Black Africans remains largely anecdotal. Nonetheless, these findings can be applied to other Global Majority demographics like Black Africans and West Indians based on our own research and decades of practice, which demonstrate a preference for cultural similarity when navigating traumatic events, such as death.  

Our hosting a psychoeducation series specifically for Black women is, therefore, especially significant for our Black female clients who seek culturally sensitive support. Fiona gives further insight into why this is important, saying, “One thing really amazing about these group psychoeducation workshops is how they facilitate women permitting themselves self-release from cultural expectations and understandings that can often inhibit their healing journey.” 

While the concepts of loss and grief are typically associated with death, we must remember that this is not an all-inclusive view. As mentioned, other forms of loss pose significant emotional turmoil and deserve similar focus. “In the Caribbean, where I’m from, the only loss that’s culturally recognised with reverence is death, and even that’s not fully acknowledged. There is a general belief that after the practicalities — the wake, nine nights and the funeral — you carry on with life,” Fiona explains.  

Continuing, Fiona says, “Yes, you do carry on with life. However, not acknowledging the gap that’s still there and its impact on you, emotionally and physically, doesn’t allow for a comprehensive mourning process. We can extend this to other types of grief and loss, like the breakdown of a relationship or leaving a community — we need time to space to navigate these changes and understand how they’ve changed us as a person. We don’t have to speedily ‘move on’ as though these things don’t affect us.” 

At The Maya Centre, we realise the diversity and complexities of loss and its profound impact on one’s life, from bereavement to life transitions to trauma. By providing a culturally affirming space for Black women to process grief, we facilitate healing and growth during these difficult times of change with the help of expert-by-experience practitioners like Fiona, who bridge the identity gap between service users and providers. We encourage any Black women based in Islington and seeking support during their own grieving process to register and join us for eight weeks of learning, community and care.