Culture & Communications, Grief & Loss

Is America Still Grieving the Loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ?

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We’re ever mindful of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today as well as everyday. The fortitude and great courage displayed under fire to lead a nation into freedom and awareness of self was impeccable. For those that were present on this Earth during the time of his assassination,  I pause to write this post for you.

Is America still grieving the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?

President Obama eloquently stated at the passing of Nelson Mandela that Mandela does not belong to us, he belongs to the ages. This statement rings true for many who are going through the grieving process. How do we present our loved ones to the ages, a place where there is no reach until death? The process and stages associated with presenting that loved one to the ages is grief (the acknowledgement that our loved ones are no longer among us.)

I wonder how you approached the grief on that low day on April 4, 1968 at 6:10 pm when time stood still for the nation and the world it sits in. For many, the hope of a nation froze like an ice cube in a tray wondering how we as a nation would move forward creating progress towards a more perfect union between races, religions, and genders. How many Marches on Washington have been held to promote peace, how many movements and sit-ins have been established to break the mold on injustice since that time?

Disappointment and grief are two cousins that can knock a person off of their feet. It is like an unwanted house guest that you want to leave and are not certain of the duration of time for their visit. Long after television announcement such as an assassination of a leader has been published, what happens to the hope of the people who vested all of their hope in forward progress? Have their hope dried up like a raisin in the sun? withered like grass? turned into a state of surviving rather than thriving? provoked courage in the face of fear or a screaming settling to accept the current circumstances of this life? Many have said, including my parents, that Dr. Martin Luther King’s mark in their lives was huge and they would not be able to have certain privileges without his contribution and the favor of God on his life.

Think about your approach to grief. I know that we’ve lost loved ones far greater than the relationship of a leader such as Mandela or Dr. Martin Luther King, but looking back at the approach you took once you heard the news of Dr. King’s assassination, where you satisfied with the steps of grief you went through and your approach to it? Where are you today and how have you changed?

For anyone that has gone through the loss of a loved one would say that grief is a refining fire that burns but when you come through it, your perspective is fortified with a great strength that provides peace and courage, an unshakable courage to approach life fearless because you have already loss in life, yet you are alive, and equipped to move forward in peace that your loved one is at peace. Grief is complex, peaceful,  speechless, and confusing all at the same time.

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How do you choose to remember and celebrate the legacy of Dr. King today? While some capitalize on legacy photo shopping Dr. King in a twerkin contest for their club (SAD) or him rocking a gold chain (c’mon people), we could be taking the time to organize coalitions or assisting the efforts of the NAACP in getting clarity about their vision now in 2014 where we have a multiplicity of issues that affect us individually and collectively like mental health and the agonizing reality of how prolonged grief is impacting our race due to the misconceptions that we hold concerning distrust in mental health providers, how religion and our devout love for God keeps us wrapped up tightly in denial that we are acquiring pain but not releasing it. Dr. King’s Day brings us together in harmony yearly for fellowship but should we be galvanizing our communities expanding the vision rather than continuing to celebrate the legacy that froze in 1968? Hear me well, I honor Dr. King and have the highest admiration for his family, but am always challenging myself to do more. I love how every YouTube video of Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. King, always encourages us to move forward and advance the dream of her father.

So now that many years have gone by and you’ve reflected on how you have processed your grief over the years, how have you made personal change in your life and contributed to the lives of your community?  Creating social and environmental change begins with a choice and a decision to make something of the surroundings that we live in. Giving up and caving in will never resolve issues. If you are disappointed with where the nation is since the death of Dr. King, stop and ask yourself what are you doing to make a difference?

I love community organizing and my time as one in Pittsburgh working with hopeless people who could not see past their current circumstance and surrounding. It is amazing what a cup of coffee and some jazz can do for letting people know that they are not stuck with a memory of Dr. King. No…No. His legacy is very much alive and lives in each one of us. Just as the people of South Africa may be grieving the loss of Mandela, although they have a capable president, they can not erase the effort  and contributions that were made under his leadership. The blueprint that they choose to leave in life will be inspired by his legacy. We too, should do the same. Marches may not be effective, but social media is. What topic are you passionate about? How can you share your story with the masses. Today in honor of the legacy of Dr. King, let this be the day that you draw the line in the sand and move yourself forward to progress, doing something rather than talking about the endless possibilities of it. If Mandela can rise from prisioner to president and Dr. King from minister to global agent for change, what will your story be?

be encouraged……….

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The Morning After: Coping with anxiety as a result of mass killings from Henan, China to Newton, Connecticut

by Danita Ogandaga, MSW

On Friday, December 14, families in China and Connecticut both faced a horrific series of violence where children were massacred by knives and guns like a person practicing at a gun range. In China, 22 children between the ages of six and twelve years old and adults were stabbed at the Chenpeng Village Primary School in Henan, China. Some of the children had severed ears and fingers. Before entering the school, Min Yingjun, 36, decided to stab an elderly woman after breaking into her home. Mental illness has been blamed as the culprit for this heinous crime.

Image Photo: Xinhua Photoshoot

The children in Newton, Connecticut faced a very different end and paid the price with their lives. Adam Lanska, 24, slaughtered twenty children between the ages of six and seven years old also killing six adults. The chief medical examiner, H. Wayne Carver, noted that many of the children suffered three to eleven shots each. This was simply an unspeakable tragedy.

Image Photo: AP Photo/Shannon Hicks

Daily news and police sirens increase on the streets as people across the world see the heightened response to violence that is occurring at the response of one person’s sole decision to end their lives by taking the lives of others. It is not enough that those persons who are giving up on life are leaving behind score of grief for their family and friends to process and sort through, but the acts of violence permeate into society for the lives of the innocent and unsuspecting are cut down like grass with no chance of fulfilling their future.

This weekend had me keeping abreast of the grief that the nation is experiencing in light of the tragedies in Connecticut. As a behavioral therapist myself, I managed a caseload of clients this weekend who are dealing with holiday blues, suicidal ideations, and complicated grief due to post-abortion and life trauma. Aware of the essential need to practice self-care, I spent most of the weekend in prayer and with a close attachment to my toddler who I carefully kept in sight. Looking at her often, I found myself gazing in and out of what most psychologist’s term third party grief, where you look upon a situation wondering how you would respond and I simply found myself confessing the word of God, commanding peace in my walls and healing for the hearts of the families everywhere. Most of all, I began praying in the spirit for the persons who find their minds slowly drifting from them as they yield themselves to receiving demonic instruction on how to carry out their suicide and mass homicides.

My mind drifted back to the time when she first entered the world and I wondered how I would ever trust anyone with my gift from God. I am sure that as parents, many of us go through the motions where we also have to develop a strong skin of trust for others to care for our children. In light of the two school tragedies that occurred this weekend, I, like many people I communicated with this weekend whether at the Farmer’s Market or the boutique all had the same concerns…would we be able to release our children to school on Monday morning? Locks on doors (check), security in the parking lot (check), sign-in and out procedures followed (check) all bases had been covered. There had been no prior assurance released from her school as to how the security would be increased so reluctant, I wanted to keep her with me and suddenly realized that I had allowed the door of fear to come in.

I must admit, releasing my daughter to her school this morning was difficult but I am thankful that I am a believer of God’s word and I rest in His promises of protection. In preparation for the day, I listened to Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind CD as well as my pastors, Pastor Creflo and Taffi Dollars’ confessions over fear for the family. I am thankful to God that faith came after feeding my faith and starving my doubts on my daughter as well as children everywhere would be protected. I encourage you to do the same today. We lift up the families in China and Connecticut and request the hand of God to balm their heart to not be overtaken by this enormous tragedy that has rocked a small town where everyone is interconnected. While doing so, close the fear that may try to seep into your family life by continuously praying for your children and declaring Psalms 91 over them as well as their schools. Our nation needs the hand of God and we need Him at the center of our lives.

Take the time to listen to a recent confession over fear that can be found on Youtube by clicking: 

http://youtu.be/eudzgH8HLmE

                If you are wondering how you will survive the crisis in your life, view my latest Youtube video by clicking:  http://youtu.be/EvdXbSIWo44

God loves you. He always has and I am certain that He always will. Keep God at your center and trust that His promises to keep you safe and in peace are sure.