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  • Writer's pictureSazi Wald, MSW, LSWAIC

Circles of Grief adapted to Support BIPOC Communities: Actions and Resources to Make a Difference

Updated: May 30, 2020

I am experiencing deep sorrow for Black and Brown communities. I am experiencing increased fear for my friends, loved ones, and community members. George, Ahmed, Breonna, among the many many others that have been murdered, the historical trauma, the ongoing complex trauma to the black and brown members of our collective family weigh heavy on my heart.

Just a caveat: I may be wrong about the things I say next. This is where I am right now. I am also here in the world to grow and learn too.

Yesterday, a fellow therapist, Dr. Amber Lyda, in her statement, reminded the group of the circles of grief. I was inspired and thought that this might be a helpful idea to share if you are exploring effective ways to give and receive support.

Psychologist Dr. Susan Silk created this idea from Ring theory. When trauma and grief happen SO many people are affected. Those people are in different circles or "rings" around the main person or group most affected who is placed in the center. To helpfully GIVE support those in the outer circles need to send comfort and love to the inward circles and a ton love love and support to those in the center. To GET support we move to those in the outer circles. For example, in your circles you can get support from family, community, and professionals such as counselors (like me), advocates, and advisors.

If you are looking for a therapist in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community you can find some with these websites (also you can reach out to me personally and I can make referrals):

To white community members:

Right now is a time to give our love and support to our black and brown community members. We are all traumatized. And for our white community members seek support outside the circle. It is harmful to seek support from those inside. There will be time to talk about the overall trauma, right now we focus on supporting those in the center (amidst COVID-19 mind you. Talk about complicated! Stay connected <3).

It can feel hopeless. This is a deeply pervasive problem woven into the fabric of society. How could it possibly end? It can! There is action that you can take to help stop the suffering and injustice.

It is a time to say "This is fucked up," "I love you," "I stand with you," "I see you," "I treasure you" in response to trauma. Make lots of room for grief!!! Listen, bare witness, make space where there is no trying to fix, just listen. The gravity is immense. It is time to sit in the discomfort, fear, and reality. To make space for rage in the Black and overall BIPOC community. Counseling and outward circle community support can help you do this if you struggle.

This is the time to act: hire people of color into LEADERSHIP and EXECUTIVE roles, support black communities: bank at black owned and operated banks, buying from black businesses, donate bail money, donate to rebuild the black small businesses, donate to the black lives matter movement and more and more.

Be public with your support. Do not support people that are Black and Brown silently. Call out implicit and explicit racism of fellow white community members and call in learning and conversation. Ask questions from Anti-Racist White Allied communities members, learn more: you can start with books such as White Fragility, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race, White Rage, How to be an AntiRacist, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race. More Books

Again, I am still learning. What I say may change, may be behind as things shift. I am growing too!

One last thing, I have added notes about this to previous posts where I talk about black lives specifically. Because I want to dispel covert racism behind All Lives Matter by educating. The term and movement of Black Lives Matter is so important. In order for all lives to actually matter, we need to acknowledge and stop the murder of our black and brown community members, stop racial profiling, pour wealth into their communities, empower black women and children, quit murdering at traffic stops, false arrests when they are in school, killing them for jogging, or murdering them in their beds at night. Of course all lives matter in theory, but the actions of white people in power need to show it. Until then, we must keep reminding everyone and pushing the movement that Black Lives Matter. "All lives matter" dilutes the facts, complex trauma, disparities, and realities that people that are Black endure throughout their daily lives.

For more information on the concept of White Spaces you can read this article, for more information about overt and covert systematic racism you can look at this diagram or to learn more about any of these things read any of the books or articles mentioned above.

I hope that this helps. Grief is an important experience. We must not shut this away if we are to change. If you are in Washington State and need to speak with someone sooner rather than later you can call the WARM line at 877-500-9276. If you are in crisis please call the 24/7 crisis line at 206-461-3222.

Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Reach out!

With so much love,


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