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Grief is Ghetto

It’s the day of the funeral and everyone is a mess. A sea of people wearing black in pews grieving the loss of Ken. The light of the room, laughter for the day, and the joy everyone could feel is gone. It is the last time they’ll be able to see him and say the things that time got in the way of. Here at the podium to pay her last respects is Charniah, affectionately called Cha, and everyone’s back straightens with the anticipation of how she will honor him.

Immediately, she turned the tears of sadness to tears of humor so strong, they felt a headache looming.

Upon meeting her, my imagination ran wild and that’s how I imagined the funeral was for her. Normally, the grieving widow is inconsolable but then there’s Cha. Probably one of the funniest grieving people I have ever encountered. She is the founder and creator of Grief is Ghetto which was created after Ken’s, her longtime partner, untimely death. I remember scrolling through Instagram seeing the title Grief is Ghetto wondering what it was all about. She spoke honestly about her feelings in a comedic and relatable way, and strangely, I felt seen.

To put her in perspective, on her IG story one day she shared her routine doctor’s visit that left the nurse stunned. The nurse was taking vitals and came to the portion to listen to her heartbeat. The nurse says “hmm, I can’t seem to find your heartbeat” to which Cha replies, “that’s because I’m dead inside.” Shocked and unsure what to say next, she proceeded with the rest of her medical duties.

The passing of Ken rocked her world, and she knew things would never be the same. They say there are 3 things in the world that make a huge impact on your life: a marriage, a birth and a death. Things shift in such a way that you now remember things pre-marriage/birth/death, and nothing is ever the same. Who you were as a person becomes a familiar memory, but not quite the same. Death has a way of changing in a universal way. You are never the same. Never. It is as if part of you dies with that person that no longer walks on this Earth in the physical sense. Most people mourn in the emotional sense with uncontrollable crying with sporadic memories appearing either making you laugh, cry, get angry or all at the same time. Others are aggressive and no one or nothing will stand in the way of their dump truck of grief. Most of the time, it is them intentionally, or unintentionally, pushing people away with the fear they could lose another person they love, and so, now that person is inadvertently becoming a casualty to their mourning.

2021 I lost my Big Mama, brother, friend and cousin and to say I was in a downward spiral is an understatement. Almost circling the drain of suicide because I cannot be on this planet just to suffer and provide relief for everyone else. Right? 2022 was the year of me floating around holding on by the last string left on my old ass, ill-fitting thong. Cha lost Ken in 2021 as well and recently lost her matriarch, but yet, somehow, she managed to not only keep herself sane, but make others in the same place in life smile, laugh, feel seen and, especially for me, breathe and understand that I’m not crazy, but grieving.

It is that humor that makes it okay to laugh at the fact that you’re not okay. She is someone that I just didn't understand why and how she made this possible. How could she muster the strength to provide relief for anyone else? Life has a way of redirecting us to the life we are meant to have and deviating from the life we thought we wanted. For example, prior to this life shift, she never thought she would be the type to not want children. Perhaps that may change in the future but for now she’s fine with being the cool auntie and would “much rather be traveling and drinking.”

Me too, girl. Me. Too.

Now the redirection has led to her becoming an unconscious healer to strangers. “Knowing other people see these videos gives me life,” she said. “It's not for me. It's for that person sitting on the side of the bed fully clothed, staring in space and telling everyone they're okay."

There is nothing to prepare you for grief. It is simply something that occurs in the most random times and something you have to learn to live with. “Grief is very lonely,” she continued. “Lonely grief. Lost time. Not having any sense of time. Emptiness was the worst because it was a lot of bargaining with God. I was ready to die because it was too much. He was better than me. You took the wrong person. Losing Ken not only altered my today, but the future. Hardest part was accepting my new, unknown future.”

If you’ve never experienced grief and depression, that sentiment will be a bit shocking but it’s normal and those in the grief community understand completely. That type of depression will have you in a state where nothing matters. I didn’t eat today? So. You texted me you love me? God didn’t love me enough to keep them here. It took me 5 hours just to get the courage to get up and shower today? Okay, that’s progress. You are swimming in a pool of negative thoughts and the spiral down to that hole is fast, dangerous and deeper than the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. Sometimes it is oddly comforting because you can fool yourself into thinking it didn’t happen. But when you wake from the dream back in reality, it’s a nightmare that Freddy Krugar is even afraid of. It’s a world that is guarded by the hopes and dreams of the reality you saw with that person, the thought of the life that was rightfully envisioned with love and the hope that it’s all a really bad dream you can wake up from.

People who have lost someone understand that. It’s ghetto, but there’s a general consensus of people who have grieved that understand this is what it is. But what is a ghetto though? The dictionary defines it as to “put in or restrict to an isolated or segregated area or group. By that definition, grief and ghetto form a group that is filled with all aspects of grief, but provide a strange group of support and understanding; Especially in the way in which grief is expressed. It is a mutual respect amongst the community and how you are dealing with all of it. Dying your hair orange? Cool. Eating a whole pound cake? That sounds tasty. Working out every time you feel anything that reminds you of how you felt in those moments? Your abs are going to look amazing. Dropping off the face of the Earth until you have the energy to deal with other people’s energy? Bet, text me when you’re back in town.

The grief community is a judgment free, protected, and respected zone where no one is right or wrong; it is simply your way.

For Cha, creating Grief is Ghetto is not only therapy for her, it is providing people from all walks of life a community to feel seen and heard. For her she “wants to change the way people perceive grief in general and hopefully reach several million people. We're not taught to deal with grief, and I want to change that perception. I want to open that door and have more conversation on how it makes you different.” With the vision to have a platform to provide access to mental health professionals and support groups, this platform will be the reason why so many people will heal in a positive way.

It has been 2 years since the loss of our loved ones, and I don’t know how to do this. Charniah doesn’t either, but one thing is for certain and two things for sure; this shit is ghetto.

Thank you for creating this ghetto ass community.

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