Four weeks ago my life changed.

I was on a video call with some faith-based activists and organizers from around the country when my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. I ignored it until my aunt sent me a text indicating that something that happened to my grandmother. I immediately dropped everything and called my mom to hear her say words that shifted my world instantly.

“Grandma died.”

I sit here writing this through my tears because the pain I have in losing my grandmother Bernice is the most profound and complicated thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m sitting in her bed – a thing I’ve done over these past few weeks – and am thinking about the how the personal, pastoral, and political are intricately and interestingly woven together in our lives.

Or at least in my life…

See, my grandma was the person that I called before and after any march or direct action I engaged in. She was the one who I called before and after flights to ministry or social justice engagements. This was absolutely about being accountable for my whereabouts with my family but it was also more than that. These check-ins were a part of an intergenerational exchange that let an elder sit connect with someone younger and together, speak about what has happened in the world and what work remains.

We’d sit on her bed watching the news together and talk about what was being done in response to the injustice folks are experiencing. I’d share with her about the projects I was apart of or how my colleagues’ work responded to the stories flashing across the screen as CNN or MSNBC played in the background. She’d speak of the things she and her peers would do in the 60’s like how they leveraged folks fascination and fear of the Black Panthers to gain access and opportunities that granted children in their community with educational equity.

We’d talk about our shared lament at the destruction of gains fought for by her generation and what it meant for me as her granddaughter to spend my days conspiring for good but having to do so because of the resurgence of evolved forms of xenophobia and hate that need to be dismantled.

I’ll miss my grandma for so many reasons but amongst them will be the fact that I don’t have elders I can talk to openly about these sorts of things. I don’t know 80+ year olds who love to talk about politically challenging those wanting to build borders or utilizing nonbinary language use as it relates to trans persons. My biggest cheerleader, conversational companion, and challenger has transitioned into the ancestral realm so not only am I impacted, how I approach and hold the work is shifting too.

That intertwining of the pastoral, political, and personal means that not only must I give myself space to grieve as an act of care and a way of honoring my gran, I need to remember that space to reflect grants me the ability to see her influence in my life, my political engagement, and my ministry in fresh ways. Maybe this will be a thing I encourage others to think of as they navigate the losses they experience – only time will tell because this is all so fresh and I’m just trying to stay afloat in the ocean that is my grief.

Four weeks ago my life changed and I feel the ache of this in the deepest wells of my being. Right now all I can think to do is use reflection as a way to try and hold this loss with a tender heart and open hands while interrogating how my grandma’s impact on me shaped who I am and inspires who I will choose to be.


Alicia T. Crosby (she/hers) is a Chicago-based justice educator, activist, and (sometimes reluctant) minister whose work addresses the spiritual, systemic, and interpersonal harm people experience. Through her teaching, writing, speaking, and space curation, Alicia helps individuals, communities, and institutions alike explore and unpack topics related to identity, inclusivity, journey, and intersectional equity. This native New Yorker channels her creativity into her work with her nonprofit Center for Inclusivity as well as in her writing and speaking. Check out www.aliciatcrosby.com to connect with her work.


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5 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Looking at the Relationship Between the Pastoral, Political, and Personal in My Grief

  1. So sorry. She sounds wonderful and her loss will leave a huge void in your life. She also sounds as if she has inspired you, and that gift will continue in you long after her passing.

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  2. Your grandmother reminds me of my mother. She, too, has transitioned and I miss her every day. May you continue to listen for the guidance your grandmother sends. Hear her in your heart. Blessings!

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