The Mighty Logo

The Derek Chauvin Verdict and the Effects of Collective Grief

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Last summer, I wrote an article about managing anxiety associated with racial trauma after the death of George Floyd.

At the time, I was struggling with the impact of collective grief and trying to process the constant barrage of images and videos of George Floyd’s death.

Yesterday, jurors found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd last May. Millions of people across the globe watched Floyd plead for his life for nine minutes and 29 seconds before finally succumbing to his injuries. He was a son, father, partner and friend. Floyd’s death sparked international outcry across the globe. This doesn’t feel like justice, but it does feel like accountability. I hadn’t realized how I’d been impacted by Floyd’s death until I began to cry uncontrollably as the verdict was read. Racism is a public health crisis. It shows up in our bodies through toxic stress and if we aren’t careful, we will hold on to me. Its effects mimic PTSD-like systems and the emotional labor of social justice work can sometimes feel too heavy to bear.

Although Chauvin was found guilty, we must continue to teach others that racism is a pervasive public health crisis in America. We must speak the names of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Sandra Bland, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and countless other Black and Brown lives violently taken at the hands of police. We must continue to fight for an end to qualified immunity, transparency and accountability in these cases.

In “Facing Racial Trauma – Again and Again – as a Black Woman With Anxiety,” I noted that in 2019, police officers killed over 1,000 people. In developing further into the statistics, it was noted that of that number, 23% of those murdered were Black, despite being 13% of the population. In fact, according to research, there were only 27 days in 2019 where police did not kill someone. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. They are also 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed. In 99% of these cases, officers have not been charged with a crime, even when there is video evidence. (See more at Mapping Police Violence.)

These statistics, paired with the near daily images from police body cams and cell phone images from helpless bystanders, can be triggering for those of us struggling with anxiety and collective grief. They can also be debilitating for African Americans living with mental illness. Every time a Black of Brown community member is violently killed by those who are charged with protecting and serving, we are retraumatized. We must hold space for ourselves and for our community. As a Black woman living with anxiety, I’ve found I have to step away from the constant replay of these images on social media for my own self-care. Self-care for me looks like engaging in inner work with my therapist, meditation, building breaks in my workday and establishing healthy physical and emotional boundaries to ensure that I am not becoming overwhelmed by my social justice work.

Here are some resources for self-care:

Resource for People of Color:

Resource for Allies:


Black folks in our community: How are you taking care of yourself right now? Let us know in the comments below.

Non-Black members of color in our community: We recognize and see you and the pain that you may also be experiencing. Keep showing up in the fight against white supremacy. Learn, reflect and continue to dismiss anti-Black narratives.

White folk in our community: Keep showing up. Keep doing work to decenter whiteness and to learn, reflect and readjust.

Originally published: April 21, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home