At the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference, Dr. Gloria Horsley discusses cultural sensitivity with Vonceil Levine, who works with Haven House in Florida. Being sensitive to the cultural needs of an African American requires being open and available. You work from the family and community base, so you may need to take the services to them. Don’t expect that this community will come to you, since there are trust issues that have been accumulating through history. Even in that spiritual community, there are still limits to how people can offer support. There aren’t a lot of informed and supportive congregations, so this presents a unique challenge.
Levine explains that African Americans need people who look like them to do the reaching out in order to heal those generations of trust issues. Congregations need to learn that this is an issue that needs support. Levine has some tips for those going through a loss, starting with acknowledging the magnitude of the loss. There are spiritual and physical reactions you will have. Next, accept the change in your life and know that it’s a permanent change.
Accepting a Loss
Once you’ve accepted the loss, you must identify ways to change your life to accommodate it. Nothing will be the same again, but that doesn’t mean life comes to a halt. So much will be going on, so know that it takes a lot of courage to take the risk of re-engaging and healing. There are big steps that need to be taken, and it takes a lot of determination to keep going forward. Be kind to yourself.
Cultural sensitivity is lacking in many organizations, and Levine encourages those in the bereavement field to consider these sensitivities when serving the community. She works diligently to both educate and help heal.