Dr. Paul Miller
Death of Your Mindset: What’s Grief
Ha ha ha ha, what’s grief? What’s grief out in dese streets? F&%K that Grief Sh*&, that Sh*& is played out. Ask yourself do you know what grief is? I don’t want to know grief (All in BIG’s Voice). Those lyrics are taken and modified from the late great Notorious BIG “What’s Beef”, off of his classic album “Life After Death”. I was in college at the University of Buffalo at the time and got the news that Biggie was killed. It was the death of an icon in my mind. He was someone that I listened to musically that produced the soundtrack to my life. Everyone has a theme song. What’s your theme song? After reading this article, tell me what your theme song is or was growing up. When the door busts open and you enter the room, what song describes your life and who you are? Put it in the comments on any platform this has been shared with you on. I’ll tell you why later.
My theme song is Juicy, on Big’s first album Ready to Die. It was an epic tale of how he went from ashy to classy. How he grew up hard and was going to do whatever it took to make it in this world. Strangely enough the title of his albums were very predictive of his untimely demise. Words have power; the way you think is how you act, the way you act is what you attract. In a normal circumstance I would often prescribe you having the ability to control your thoughts by reprogramming them with new thoughts, which will form new habits, rituals and routines. As this is a whole hearted belief, and an opportunity to change the way you think, and to produce better outcomes for yourself and your family. Conversely, sometimes there are other factors that can make this process more challenging than the way this is written.
Grief and loss can often plague our lives and put us in a mindset that is fixated and frozen in time. Specifically, now during a pandemic, grief and tragedy has shanked almost all our lives in some form or fashion. One of the most difficult ways that it has hit home for me is with my students. Family after family suffering with loss, heartbreak, and being shut in. One family had two relatives die within days of each other due to COVID. Other families are grieving the loss of their opportunity to connect with the outside world, because everyone has COVID in their house. Loss doesn’t have to just mean death, you can grieve because you lost a job, an opportunity, or even your sanity. According to US News, this pandemic has caused an increase in homicides by 30% in over 34 US Cities.
A lot of this is coming from grief. Grief typically is described in 5 stages, however, not everyone experiences all 5 stages. The five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Denial is usually the stage of disbelief and often the person can become emotionally paralyzed. Being emotionally paralyzed and not being able to deal with your feelings and hurt can often lead to acting out by exhibiting behaviors that hurts others. There can become a displacement of the next stage, anger. Anger can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It looks different for different people, from blaming any parties involved in the loss, to looking for revenge.
Basically displacing your emotions because you weren’t able to effectively deal with them. As the human mind begins to process grief, the tendency is to bargain. Bargain with whoever or whatever you think can help you achieve a better result due to your loss. Often in the bargain there is an attempt to make a deal with a higher power. “God if you prevent this from happening, I will do that.” That may or may not work out exactly the way the grieving person wants and when it doesn’t, the stage of depression can follow. Bargaining with God is a tricky topic and I don’t know exactly why it doesn’t always work out for all. The best advice I have is that we all have life lessons and God allows certain things to happen in our lives because it is a part of what we need to accomplish on this earth to grow. Many times grief and loss are a test. Will you lose your faith? Will you condemn and run from God? God must have been ready for that person to leave this earth, but how will you process these stages of grief? Will you rise and overcome to move forward in God’s desire for you, or will you become stuck and lose faith? Many times people run to God when they are in trouble or experiencing hard times. It is my belief that he is always listening, regardless of when you are calling, however, I truly believe that God is like Wi-Fi, the closer you are to the modem, the stronger the signal is. Develop your relationship with God, before, during, and after you have grief. The stronger your faith is, the better chance you have at making it through the stages without hurting yourself, or someone else. I liken this to the people in your life who only call you when they want something, versus that friend who calls you all the time to make sure you’re GOoD! God has the ability to heal and guide you through the stages in a healthy way.
When or if you enter a depressive state it can be marked with loneliness and reflection. In this stage it can feel like you’re carrying a book bag full of bricks up a hill on a hot summer day. This again doesn’t have to just come from death, but it can come from all types of grief causing losses. Depression is real, the State of Mental Health proclaims that 2020 brought a 93% increase in mental health described by anxiety and depression of over 315,000 Americans who took the screening. Youth depression rates are up as well. A lot of these statistics can be attributed to some sort of grief. The 5th and final stage of grief is acceptance and comes from an upward turn.
How do we get that upward turn to happen faster? As I am not an expert in grief, what I go back to is having a deep-rooted Wi-Fi connection to the Big Guy upstairs. Take the mindset and choose faith, choose that God doesn’t make mistakes. What may seem like a traumatic loss to us, may be God’s way of opening a door. I lost my job, I can’t pay my rent, how am I going to eat? These are real life occurrences during this pandemic. All of these can cause grief, with the stages that follow. However, as stressful as it may be, it may be happening because God has a different path for you and you weren’t listening to what he wants for your life. So he decided to force you to go another way. Yes, you still have free will, and can choose to go get another job that doesn’t fulfil your life’s goals. Or you can dig deep, call on God, and listen to what he wants for you. He may want you to stop and write a book, or open your own business. Your business may be a week away from creating wealth and change for your community. Whatever it is, if you ask and listen, even throughout the grief of your loss, you will be told what you should do. Be still, be present, and be willing to listen even if you hear something you don’t want to hear.
Grief can be crippling and can take one through a rollercoaster of emotions. How can you come out stronger and strike death to Grief, defeat the stages? It’s like my theme song Juicy. “If don’t know, now you know”. For me it’s about wanting to achieve greatness and follow God's plan. Wanting that more and finding strength in the healing process, understanding that grief will happen along the way. Grief is real, the feelings are real. In this process there will be ups and downs, trials, tribulations, and lessons; often because I tried it my way instead of his. Go back to that theme song and look for inspiration. I’m sure that song speaks to you and defines you for a reason. Turn that reason into your season. The death of your mindset comes from the old to the new you. Shed your loss, stand in faith, and share your success to help others improve as well.
Dr. Paul Miller is an educational success expert with more than 21 years of experience creating systems and tackling approaches that help Black young men graduate. He is a speaker and the author of We Need To Do Better: Changing the Mindset of Children through Family, Community, and Education, and Cyberbullying: Breaking the Cycle of Conflict.
Comments or Questions? Want to share your educational experience with COVID? I cordially invited you to reach out! All respectful, on-topic comments are welcome.