The Worst Issue 2: How do Feminists Grieve?

The second issue of The Worst, a compilation zine on grief and loss, is finished!  In it, 16 contributors have shared their art, writing, and insight into their experiences dealing with the death of friends, parents, grandparents, partners, children, and fellow organizers.  The authors articulate their thoughts on how grief impacts our sense of our own identity in the world and on our ability to take care of ourselves and each other by creating sustainable activist projects that acknowledge grief.  The zine contains a template you can use to create your own living will and appointment of attorney for healthcare decisions, a resource list, and a hand-printed fabric patch with a quote from Audre Lorde.   You can order a copy of the first or second issue here or pick one up at our distro at the next FTB event.

Why discuss grief processing on a feminist blog? For me, working towards an authentic, community-based model of grief processing is an inherently feminist act.  On a basic level, radical feminism seeks empowerment for those who are subjugated or harmed by the patriarchal capitalist mainstream.  As we are socialized into this system, we are often taught to suppress or contain our emotions and feelings lest we be labeled “hysterical,” “bitchy,” “weak,” or “too much.”  And yet, racism, sexism, homophobia, able-ism and other structural inequalities in our society justifiably invoke outrage in anyone who dares to expose or work against injustice.  We are told, as usual, that we cannot trust our own voices, feelings, and experiences of the everyday losses that those holding power in our society depend upon to maintain control.

Often, our reactions to the deaths of important people in our lives are forced into specific templates or time frames that don’t always reflect our true needs.  We may experience few instances of genuine support amidst the hospitals, Hallmark cards, and “Stages of Grief” we are supposedly moving through.  This repression and denial of grief inhibits authentic communications from occurring around the universal experience of loss and alienates us from one another during times when we may need other people the most.  To claim our grief—to claim that our relationships with each other matter–within this climate of isolation and denial is feminism in action.  Any method by which we can reclaim our authentic selves results in empowerment and creates a space for more of us at the collective table (yes, even we who grieve, we who struggle with illness and chronic pain, who have survived sexual assault, addiction, intimate partner violence, the list goes on. . . )

In her book, Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World, the wise eco-anarcha-feminist Pattrice Jones explains that feelings must be spoken in order for healing to occur.  Noting that language is an inherently social activity by which we communicate meaning to others, she concludes: “one general principle of good emotional health is to talk about your experiences and feelings” (38).   The Worst seeks to provide a space for us to practice making meaning out of chaos by trying to find words for what we have lived.  The process of writing or speaking our truths is itself a healing process, and enacts our feminist refusal to collude with the denial of our emotions.

The dual purpose of the zine is to help us become more comfortable with providing support for those who are grieving, something we are rarely taught.  Words are not only spoken and written but also heard and read.  Jones continues: “one way to help create a healthy . . . community is to listen with empathy when other people talk about their experiences and feelings” (38).   Becoming an active witness to other’s loss narratives is an essential part of community healing.  This entails welcoming conversations about loss that are usually deemed taboo: transforming our “worst” experiences into something from which we can and will recover together.