‘The Science of Grief’ at the DIA Explores Healing, Personal Transformation

Grief isn't the territory of one group or one circumstance. As humans, grief is a part of life. Buddhists would go as far as to say that life is suffering, and we must learn to be free of the attachments that bring feelings of sadness, anger or grief.

But especially for African-Americans, coping with grief can be a particularly difficult.

"Everyone's grief is individual," says Detroit performance poet Natasha T. Miller. "But there's a culture around black people not talking about grief. Whites can be free in their sadness; people treat them softly and kindly as they grieve. But African-American grief isn't well respected."

This can be especially true for black women. Socialized to be the caretakers of others, they often find themselves pushing their own feelings aside to make room for the grief of their partners, their children, their friends – even the world. They shoulder the role of "Big Mama" for both family and community.   

"I have been with black women in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, etc. who commonly say 'I don't feel like I can talk about my grief,'" says Miller. "People think black women are strong and push through everything. When we say we're hurting, others think we're being dramatic."


That's one reason Miller co-created The Science of Grief, an event that will be held at the Detroit Institute of Arts, March 27-28. Miller is the community engagement manager for Science Gallery Lab Detroit, a collaboration with Michigan State University that connects young people through a blend of science, technology and art. The Science of Grief will be a community space for grief, a place where people will not feel pressured to suck it up or simply pray it away.

The event will start in the evening and go all night in order to cover the long hours when people are most alone with their sadness. The night will honor seven specific types of grief: queer grief, Detroit grief, suicide grief, trans grief, sibling grief, parent grief and terminal illness. There will be a mixture of professional performers, artists, poets, storytellers and everyday people, speaking about their own experiences with grief in 15-minute increments. Participants may come and go throughout the night, bearing witness or communing in silence. Therapists and clergy of various faiths will be available on site and information on support services will be offered.

"We have so many days to count our blessings. We have cat day and ice cream day," Miller says. "Why not just one day where we can share our grief in a public space?"

The Science of Grief will start at 7 p.m. on March 27 and run straight through to 9 a.m. the following morning and is free and open to the public. If you are clergy or have expertise in grief counseling and would like to volunteer, complete this questionnaire. If you'd like to attend and tell your story, then this one is for you.

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