What’s Your Grief? is an organization founded and operated by Litea Williams and Eleanor Haley. “Practical, down to earth tools” is their specialty. They also do a lot of work in Baltimore City, working with the community and in particular with the homeless population. Williams and Haley spoke with Open to Hope’s Executive Director Dr. Heidi Horsley during the Association for Death Education and Counseling 2015 conference about their work and experience with grief therapy.
“We’ll be presenting here a little bit about grief below the poverty line,” explains Williams. When a person is homeless and also grieving, it introduces an entirely new dynamic that few people understand. Experiencing homelessness can lead to an entirely new subset of secondary losses, explains Haley. “Expanding our understanding of what loss is” remains critical, whether it’s loss of a home or loss of a job or loved one.
“It’s not just the loss of a person, but a loss of the future you thought you were going to have,” says Dr. Horsley. One of the best ways to heal and grieve is to make memories and bond with loved ones according to Williams. “Many people feel like they have to compartmentalize,” she explains, and while that can “work” in the short term, it’s not a feasible or healthy long-term strategy. “You can still have a relationship with the person you lost, and there is great value” in that.
There are ways to handle loss and still meet your needs for housing and financial security, but many times this is only feasible with the right support network post-loss. That’s the disparity Williams and Haley aim to address in their work. “Death ends a life, not a relationship,” says Dr. Horsley, which is an encouraging mantra for those experiencing loss to bear in mind.