Black American Poet’s Book Details The Toll Grief Takes On Mental Health

Jun 3, 2022

Aisha Tariqa Abdul Haqq is a Black American poet who began writing at the age of 10. In support of those suffering from depression brought on by trauma, she shares a new poem taken from her poetry book, “Four Years in Chrysalis.”

Black American Poet's Book Details The Toll Grief Takes On Mental Health

Many people rationalize mortality by talking about the circle of life. But if you’ve suffered the loss of a friend or family member through violence, you know this kind of grief, sorrow, and pain is its own agonizing centrifuge. There’s no rationalizing a promising life extinguished at the hands of a fellow human being. It can feel unbearable.

Black American poet Aisha Tariqa Abdula Haqq was confronted by this whirlwind of emotions when her 16-year-old brother was murdered.

In her latest poem, Aisha Tariqa revisits her struggles with depression and suicidal ideation that were triggered by this devastating event.

Now the author of two poetry books “Four Years in Chrysalis” and “Acres of Shadow,” Aisha Tariqa Abdul Haqq is working to ease the pain of others while shedding light on the power mental anguish has to transcend all human experience.

You can learn more about Aisha Tariqa’s story and her poetry at

Aisha Tariqa Abdul Haqq says the night her brother was murdered, she’d awoken at 4 am with a visceral feeling something was desperately wrong. Her poem explores the spiraling depression this event set in motion and how quickly the mind can reach its breaking point trying to make sense of senseless inhumanity.

The poem reads:

“If I break in half it will be due to all the things there are to say

Infinity, do slice me through my sternum

Do ease the process

In half, here

At least I am full in aggravation

I would like to split between my seams

I would like to get a view of my eternity

I would like to cast myself off as the scum of the Earth

If only to save it

Us all

I would like to hang myself on noose or cross or hook

If only to bleed into an awakening of conscience

I would like to rip my skin from my vessel

If only to feel the same pain without as I do within

As I have here within me

Stress hormones

Catapulting themselves off the interiors of my skin

This agony is the time for action”

Sayyid was no usual child, says Aisha Tariqa. He carried joy and an ever-present longing for connection in his eyes everywhere he went, and his actions reflected this.

He was the baby in a family of seven siblings, and being so young, did not remember any of the sparing joyful times and adventures of his early childhood. He remembered only the physical violence exacted on him, the beatings by their mentally ill father, the homelessness and instability, and then the foster care dispensed by a family who only sought the money.

He was to die at the tail end of all that turmoil.

Aisha Tariqa says that with very few positive or pleasant memories to spare, Sayyid sought the company of a disjointed family who only learned to grow apart and never — until that time — together.

This child’s untimely death racked her entire family and everyone who knew him. She was utterly destroyed, she says, her mental health, already vaguely precarious at best, completely fell off its foundation.

During the first months after his death, as she felt her sanity swiftly slipping through her fingers, she became immobile and simply stared into the ether, trying to wrestle with the immediate and massive change in her family’s life. Her existence, she says, seemed to slow nearly to a halt, while the rest of the world continued to evolve rapidly around her.

She wrote pages of poetry in an attempt to transfer the overbearing emotions she could not manage onto a plane outside of herself. She tried to remain present even as consciousness became a burden she could no longer bear. She felt her reality slipping from her grasp, and plunged into another world marked by darkness, density, and emotional pain.

If you’ve ever been at the center of a traumatic event so devastating it crumbled your very foundation, you know you can quickly feel lost to the world, the way Aisha did as she tried to collect what capacity and substance remained to forge some kind of existence out of it.

With grief that felt like a chronic burning and a mind that simply could no longer cope, Aisha fell into suicidal ideation. If you’ve experienced the depths of unrelenting darkness, you know that not even sleep can bring peace. Instead, your existence is reduced to a constant waking hell.

This is a sign you need to reach out and ask for help.

Aisha Tariqa says that with these feelings, death seemed the only option, and yet she was driven to reach for something upon which to grasp.

Trapped in what felt like an infinite black hole, legs too weak to stand and arms too weak to lift, Aisha continued to reach for a handhold. Thanks to her perseverance and comprehensive mental health care, she was able to attach to her purpose as an umbilicus, continuously feeding her resolve.

Her purpose was something to live for. It was all she needed, and indeed, all that remained to prevent an unassuming and undue death.

If you feel trapped in a dark hole that seems like it’s filling with the water of bereavement, tossing you around so you can’t get your bearings, remember you always have a handhold in your purpose. This is what helped keep Aisha afloat and it will help you too. Your purpose is your breath, so inhale, be in your strength and your value, and let your grief ebb, and then flow.

You can do this.

Slowly, ever so slowly, and just like Aisha, you will gather your strength and pull yourself one-handed from the depths and onto solid ground, where there is air – plenty of it – and also an ever-present sunrise.

Remember to breathe.

To whoever is reading this and struggling: there is but a bit of work at the beginning of grief, especially that worsened by a sudden onset of mental illness, in which you must hold on for dear life. The massive waves come and they come, and we struggle to keep the water from our lungs, but one day they’ll break. One day, there are only ripples. One day all that is left is the remaining remembrance to simply breathe.

And with this, you will hopefully continue to hold on for dear existence. It does get easier. The pain remains but it’s more like a memory to reflect on; no longer a pressing threat to your survival. One day, there will be breath. And it will be refreshing. Hold tight to purpose.

You are encouraged to follow Aisha Tariqa on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @AishaTariqa. Her two books, “Four Years in Chrysalis” and “Acres of Shadow” are available in hardback, paperback, and Kindle on Amazon.

Mental Health Awareness Month has passed yet thousands of Americans suffer daily from the implacable grip their depression holds.

Reach out for the mental healthcare you need as soon as you need it. And, when you simply need understanding and fellowship, you’ll find solace in the words of this poet, a woman who’s walked in those very same shoes.

Visit to find out more.

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