My journey through personal and collective LGBTQPIA2S+ grief

Photo of Lauren Olson, former Face It TOGETHER peer coach and current Denver-ite and artist

Published July 17, 2023

Lauren Olson (they/them) is a Colorado State University graduate, former Face It TOGETHER peer coach and current Denver-ite and artist. They and their siblings unexpectedly lost their father to long-term health effects caused by alcohol addiction in 2019. Since then, they’ve gone through a very transformational period of self-discovery. Below, they reflect on the role of grief in their life, both personally as a loved one impacted by addiction and collectively as a member of the LGBTQPIA2S+ community.

Grief is one of the most human experiences I can think of. It took me a few years to come to terms with the grief I have for my father. What I didn’t realize until recently is that I have been grieving for myself and the rest of the LGBTQPIA2S+ community for essentially my whole life.

The kind of grief that my community shares is complex and endures for a lifetime. We grieve for the people before us, who fought for us and died for our rights. We grieve for the elders in our community who experienced a whole generation of loss. We grieve for the people still fighting. We grieve for who we thought we would grow up to be and who society expected us to be. We grieve the experience of a “normal life”– one without discrimination, without healthcare barriers, one where you can easily and safely express who you are, a life where you do not have to think twice about being with the person you love.

This community-driven grief can be all-encompassing and it is constantly evolving as the world continues to work against us. This kind of grief is so commonly disenfranchised, not respected or even really considered. When you lose someone you love, you are cared for and showered with love. The collective grief is more often ignored. That might be the biggest difference between my personal grief journey and the grief that I hold with my community. There is a strange dichotomy that lies therein, however, because in some ways, I feel more safe in my community-driven grief. I know so many people who feel it and who I can process it with.

If I’m being totally honest, figuring out how to cope with grief – intrapersonal and interpersonal – still isn’t easy. The simplest way for me to work through it has been through art. Through my expressions of grief, I have connected with so many people in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It has opened doors and allowed me the space to explore community in a capacity I hadn’t previously. I’m forever grateful to bring this part of who I am into my professional life as well. I’m making more uplifting pieces for the LGBTQPIA2S+ community in conjunction with Face It TOGETHER, and I couldn’t be more proud.

There are many ways to cope with grief; it is never one-size-fits-all. If you are experiencing any type of grief, I encourage you to talk about it. Find people who will allow you the space to express the pain and loss you feel. And don’t forget to talk about the joy you experience, the love-filled memories and moments that provide connection and comfort.

For the LGBTQPIA2S+ community, visibility and love needs to be celebrated more than ever. Be an ally. If someone shares their identity with you, be proud of them. Be thankful and show them love. Support LGBTQPIA2S+ folx in your community by voting, cultivating inclusive environments, buying from their businesses, standing up for their rights, donating to affirming organizations and having an open mind. Know that we are human and we deserve to live fulfilling lives. We deserve love, kindness, respect and the affirmation that we know who we are.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please reach out for free or low-cost help here. Additional resources for the LGBTQPIA2S+ community are available here.

You can purchase Lauren’s original art here. All proceeds benefit verified LGBTQPIA2S+ organizations.

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