Mental Health Issues and The Black Man

By: Branden Valentine


April was hard. I lost a lot, my cousin was murdered by one of his friends, my grandmother died due to Alzheimer’s and like many people covid-19 wrecked me financially. I’m sure at some point I will write something about those topics in detail, but this is about grief, specifically how black men handle grief. To be honest we don’t handle it well, in part because we haven’t been taught how to process it. Most of us don’t cry, we don’t talk about how certain situations make us feel. Even as I write this I feel like my male ancestors and relatives are somewhere calling me a bitch, a baby or soft. Excuse my language I know this is a family platform but part of that was to illustrate how messy grief is. It’s not something that we as men can control, guys I know we like to control things, but we are fully out of control with this one. Grief will hit you all at once and linger around for as long as it has to. It’s a lot like water, it will find a way in and wear a hole in you if you let it. There are a few steps I use to help, but before we continue let me acknowledge I am not an expert. I am only speaking from what I have learned from therapy. Grief is like a finger print, it is unique person to person, it will not show up or be dealt with in the exact same way but I think these may help someone who is experiencing grief.

Acknowledge your pain

Ja-Z said it best it, “You can’t heal what you never reveal.” My favorite line to say is “I’m fine.” I wasn’t, I’m not, but I’m sure I will be at some point. We as black have to express when we are not ok, it does not make you less of a man. Outside of being a man you are a person; you have feelings and its ok to be overwhelmed with emotions. What’s not ok is not dealing with what’s going on and lashing out at your loved ones. Anger is not the only emotion that we are allowed to express. If you can’t express yourself without ridicule, then those people aren’t for you. Cry, write, scream, run do what you need to do but acknowledge what’s causing you pain, name it and allow your healing to begin.

Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions

Grief is not a one size fits all. I once broke up with someone because I was grieving. My thought process was I didn’t want to ever feel like that again, so the only solution was to push everyone I cared about away. It’s crazy right but grief will make you do and say some wild stuff, it can happen in weird ways too. Right now I ask my wife to bake and I hang out with her in the kitchen while she does it, because it reminds me of when I use to hang with my grandmother while she baked. The finished product is good too which makes me feel even better. I tell stories about my grandmother while she bakes, I know weird, but when situations pop up try not to fight them.

Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically

It’s easy to fall into substance indulgence, like alcohol, drugs, weed or food. When I was spiraling, I stopped doing yoga which made me physically feel bad, and added to my mental fatigue. It will be hard to get up and continue to move your physical energy around but fight through the feeling and do it, you will feel better.

Seek face-to-face support from people who care about you

You are not alone. It is super easy to fall into feeling that no one understands your pain, and no one loves you. People care but you have to let them in, you have to let them help you. In this information age it’s easy to send a text, DM or other not personal message, but sitting down with a person over coffee or tea will help so much. It sounds super simple, its amazing how looking someone in the eyes while having a real conversation will change your mood, crazy concept. Now it is going to suck trying to motivate yourself to put on clothes and leave your house, that is the hardest part. When I was deep in my grief, I didn’t change my clothes for 6 days, and it definitely didn’t help that the world was in a shelter in place. If you can get up and get out, tell your loved one that you can only stay for an hour set a timer and get lost in the moment.

Grief is no joke, it’s hard but we as black men have to stop trying to uphold the persona that “feeling” is weak, it’s not, it’s a must for us to grow. We have a responsibility to ourselves and children to deal with our emotions in a healthy manner. You are never alone, there is always someone that can help and will listen. Take care of yourself and Happy Belated Father’s Day!


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