Breeshia Wade is a writer and grief expert who helps clients uncover the ways that fear of loss and avoiding the reality of impermanence shape us. She’s the author of Grieving While Black: An Antiracist Take on Oppression and Sorrow (North Atlantic Books).
In 2018, she deepened her Buddhist practice by receiving Jukai – a lay ordination ceremony predicated upon the formal acceptance of Zen Buddhist precepts.
She has served as a lay ordained Zen Buddhist end-of-life caregiver and birth doula by day, and a writer, sex, and grief coach in the evening. In all aspects of her career, she seeks to uncover the ways that we experience grief–in our relationship with ourselves and others, at the beginning and end of life, in the daily experiences of systemic injustice–and how we can use that grief to inform rather than drive us.
She has also been featured in articles, podcasts, and interviews in Cosmopolitan, Bookriot, The Black and Buddhist Summit, and more.
What is your book about?
Most of us understand grief as sorrow experienced after a loss—the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a change in life circumstance. I approach grief as something that is bigger than what’s already happened to us—as something that is connected to what we fear, what we love, and what we aspire toward.
I invite the reader to get in touch with their relationship to fear of loss, on an intimate level, and use grief as a tool to dismantle systemic oppression.
What was your inspiration for Grieving While Black?
I’m an LGBTQ Black woman who is intimately aware of my own relationship to grief. Even so, there were elements of my own grief—the grief simply inherent in being human—that I hadn’t touched as a result of the many forms of suffering thrusted upon me because of my social identities. As I started getting in touch with my own humanity, which felt like a radical act, I started getting in touch with a deeper experience of grief and impermanence.
I’ve been practicing Zen Buddhism for about ten years, so I had some practice sitting with self and others, which supported me in being highly attentive to the suffering caused by the reality of impermanence.
What do you hope readers take from this story?
Typically when I reference grief work in relation to anti-Blackness, people think about the grief experienced by those oppressed by White Supremacy.
But I am encouraging those who are not Black to consider how their own unexplored grief amplifies the suffering of Black people.
How do you balance writing books with the rest of your life?
Oh, wow. That’s a tough question. Sometimes, I still don’t know. It’s been very difficult because writers don’t get paid very much. And even when we do get paid for our writing, there’s something to be said about tying a calling, or a passion, to a paycheck and the complications that come with that.
For me, I was unemployed while writing a good portion of this book. In many ways, it kept my spirit alive. Then, when I did have a job, I prioritized writing by going to bed super early and waking up very early to meditate and write. I had done this for years prior to facing unemployment anyway.
It is very important that I start each day by giving myself the best of me, a practice I began when I was 22. The day can get busy and jobs can be draining. I take my writing seriously and never want it to be an afterthought once I’ve burned myself out working for someone else.
So that’s part of it. Prioritizing my writing simply felt like an extension of prioritizing myself and my calling, so I built the rest of my life around that goal, and I attended to it even when other things felt like they were falling apart.
Any advice for up and coming writers and caregivers?
Don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself, including your own goals and dreams. I think that for people who have high levels of empathy, as many writers and caregivers have, there’s a tendency to absorb and take on shit that doesn’t belong to you. I still do it (but nowhere near as often as I see most people struggle with it—I’m about taking care of me and mine). Sometimes, especially depending on your social identity, people just violently try to stack shit onto you because they don’t want to deal with their own powerlessness, grief, and feelings of frustration or inadequacy.
That ain’t about you so leave their shit with them.
ALSO, part of not taking shit that doesn’t belong to you is recognizing what does belong to you (e.g. What are your fears? What do you avoid? What are your strengths and limitations?). That’s an important part of everyone’s work that most people neglect. Leaning into being a writer and a caregiver is about so much more than the work itself. There’s a lot that goes into turning them into a sustainable practice that happens behind the scenes.
Just as you show up for your job; just as you show-up for the movement; just as you fight for others…show up for yourself. Fight for yourself.