Connect with us


Waveney Ann Moore: Reflection and healing amid grief

Waveney Ann Moore



Lake Vista Park will be the site of "A Community Moment of Reflection" Nov. 4. Photo: City of St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg’s Black community experienced two high profile losses within a few months this year. 

The first was a promising young preacher who drowned as he tried to recover a boat on Lake Seminole. The other was a longtime community leader who savored his dream job as president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League. 

But along with the deaths of the Rev. Shawn Thomas, 40, and the Rev. Watson Haynes II, 69, have been those of people perhaps less known, but just as cherished. 

Next Friday, Nov. 4, the city’s Black community is being called to reflect, grieve and gather strength together to mourn those who have died, particularly over the past few years of pandemic-constrained public mourning. The Remembrance Ceremony will offer support and resources for coping with grief and ritual designed to comfort. Paper butterflies will be offered to write notes to loved ones who have died. There will be the solemn tolling of bells. 

Lisa Brody

Lisa Brody, assistant deputy director and managing attorney for the St. Petersburg office of Bay Area Legal Services, will be among those who will gather at Lake Vista Park. She lost her father, Edwin Lawrence Sr., a little over a year ago to Covid-19. He was 84. 

She was not alone in loss as the pandemic swept through the community and claimed a disproportionate number of Black lives. Brody, chapter president of the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority – the first Black Greek letter organization for college women – saw the effect on chapter members. 

“It’s been a rough two years. We had many chapter members lose family members – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Two of us, our fathers passed the same week,” she said. 

Though she has an “extremely close” family, Brody felt she needed even more support and sought counseling from Empath Health to deal with her loss.

 “It was just something else I needed with my journey in grief,” she said.

“My father, in his last days, he was in Empath Hospice and they were just phenomenal. One of the services you get is a year of grief counseling. I tapped into some of the resources they offered. It helped me on my journey with grief. So, one of the things we did recently, was we had them come in to do a workshop for any (chapter) members that wanted it. I felt that the counseling had helped me.”

She hopes that the ceremony of remembrance arranged by Empath Health, with partners such as the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter, the St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP and the St. Petersburg Metropolitan Section of the National Council of Negro Women, will bring solace to everyone who attends. 

Sarah Varga, marketing and communications manager for Empath Health, spoke about the need for community gathering. 

“We know that there have been significant losses and Covid has had a great impact on this community,” she said.

“After seeing all these significant losses, we together desired to have something on a more community-based level. We’re inviting people to come out for their mother, their brother … just to support each other, a healing time.” 

Esther Matthews, president of the St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP, will open the program. Speakers will also include Karen Davis-Pritchett, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for Empath Health. A grief counselor from Empath will also speak. Participants will be able to ask for help to cope with their loss and will receive additional resources. Spiritual care coordinators will also be on hand.  

The ceremony will include a litany in which everyone will be invited to participate. The tolling will begin toward the end. 

This week, the Rev. Jim Andrews, director of spiritual care and bioethics at Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health, explained the importance of rituals in life – and death. 

“Historically, our ritual needs have been met through our affiliation with faith groups which recognize and construct rituals around important life passages like births, comings of age, marriage, deaths, harvests, and dealing with the tragedies of life,” he said. 

In today’s culture, though, a growing number of people “are either marginally connected or not connected at all to a faith community,” he added

But people still experience the life passages “which need to be marked and recognized and celebrated and grieved.”  

Even outside a religious context, Andrews said, rituals have the power to, among other things, “provide space and time to acknowledge and integrate life experiences with the support of your community.”

That’s the hope for what is being called “A Community Moment of Reflection.” 

“We’re just hoping that this event will be another healing event for the community and just let people in our community know that it is a resource and that they can talk with people in a safe space,” Brody said. 

A Community Moment of Reflection: You Are Not Forgotten, a Remembrance Ceremony, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, Lake Vista Park, 1401 62nd Ave. S., St. Petersburg. 


Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    October 29, 2022at6:37 pm

    This is such a good idea!!! Thank You!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us:

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.