- Editor's NoteContextualizing Bereavement and 'Brokenness'
When i got to the kiosk at the philadelphia international Airport on Friday, February 16 at night, I was unable to retrieve my flight ticket. After three failed attempts, I went to the ticket agent and shared my dilemma. The agent typed in my flight information and learned that I bought my ticket to Toledo, Ohio for the wrong date. I knew exactly how and why it happened. I had been overstretched for the last several months and when it was time to purchase the ticket a few days prior, I wasn't paying attention to the date as I should have. Stunned, I pulled out my credit card and purchased another ticket to fly home.
The flight from Philadelphia to Detroit was unusually long that night. Normally, I can get on the plane and fall asleep right away but this trip was different given the circumstances. When I arrived in Detroit, the temperature was unusually cold to me. I encountered my older brother, Jared, outside of baggage claim and complained to him about how cold it was. He shared that he felt great with this weather and to him, it was seasonably warm.
We left the airport and drove to Toledo, Ohio to see my mother and father. We arrived home around 11:30 P.M. and went into my parents' bedroom where my father rested. My father had endured prostate cancer, Parkinson's Disease, dementia, and a host of other health complications over the past fifteen years or so. During his last twenty-four hours, he struggled to breathe and had an oxygen tank next to his bed. My mother, brother, and I sat by his side hour after hour wondering about the point that he would be called "home." On Saturday, February 17, 2018 at approximate 1:12 P.M. he passed while I was in the room with him. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be with my mother and brother in his final moments. [End Page vii]
I share this with you because we (black families) struggle to discuss death. We are adept at talking about a host of issues about human functioning and development but scholars, clinicians, and educators tend to shy away from addressing a natural phenomenon. Perhaps the rationale for not discussing loss of life is related to anxiety or fear of the inevitable. For some, the prospect of losing a loved one is painful or even elusive. For our conference in Chicago a few weeks ago, we were fortunate to have a myriad of presentations that addressed the continuum of sexual expression of African descent but we did not have any presentations that addressed bereavement, death, or care for the chronically ill. While addressing death falls outside of the scope of the ABSC conference objectives, it may be interesting to look further into the reluctance to dialogue about this important developmental stage.
A few days prior to the death of my father, I stumbled upon an article describing the "brokenness" of boys as it relates to managing violence in their lives (Reichert, 2018). The author suggested that the recent horrific events in Broward County, Florida that left seventeen dead may be a result of boys struggling or refusing to transcend negative affective experiences such as shame, humiliation, or loneliness. Whether it is perpetrating violence or being a survivor of some aggressive act, males typically find themselves within a challenging quagmire of avoiding, negotiating, maneuvering around/through, or enduring physical, emotional, or sexual confrontation.
For some Black boys who constantly construct and deconstruct transhistoric hegemonic masculinity, racism, and systemic oppression, the stress of hypervigilance and "wokeness" takes its toll on individuals and relationships. A lack of emotional intelligence and subscription to social dominance and vengeance oft entimes leads to tragic circumstances in our homes, school yards, communities. Sadly, gun violence is not uncommon in Black communities and unfortunately there have been no real solutions.
What's interesting is that our families and society continue to enable this behavior by teaching boys to "Suck it up," "Get over it," and even "Quit being a bitch," when challenged by tenuous...