As Tilly a mental health social worker in a community health centre made her ital soup, she walked us through the process of adding each ingredient: Ginger, garlic, corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and sprinkling spices until the ancestors bid her stop. Tee sits across from me in this zoom meeting. She brought her drink with her. She gives me a big smile, but I can see in her eyes that she is exhausted. On top of being a midwifery student, as an only child, she has been the sole caregiver of her parents who had COVID-19
As the interlocutors settled and shared how they knew me and how I connected with each one of them, I realised that in that moment I became a bridge, bringing people together, and once more, I was glad that I was holding space for my sisters to connect and to meet each other helping realise the importance of the virtual space in sharing our vulnerabilities. As we delved deeper into discussions of grief and its effects on us at both an individual and community level, you could see the sorrow etched on the women’s faces. Gone was the easy-going banter of recipe exchanges and doing hair. In its place was the palpable grief that emanated through the screen.
Watching and listening to the women interact, the schema of SBW kept coming up and its association to poor mental health. The Black woman in this space has normalised her pain because over time she has internalised the expectations. Myths and stereotypes of the SBW who can bear it all and smiles through her pain have been created. Taking space to regroup is such a foreign concept that Black women feel shame and guilt for taking that space. Gee Social Health Worker on taking space to grieve shared “Even though I knew I needed the time, and you know, in my mind I could make sense of it. However, I still felt that shame because of what other people thought.