EFOC 2024: Rickey Smiley On Grieving A Major Loss And ‘Sideshow’ His New Book – Essence


On the topic of grief, Rickey Smiley is still navigating the loss of his son who passed nearly a year ago. In today’s fireside chat with ESSENCE Associate Editor Shelby Stewart, the host and comedian provided an array of commentary and tips on grieving. Each tip he noted during From Sideshow to Center Stage: Navigating Loss and Embracing Faith felt anecdotal, candid, and truthful. Smiley held nothing back as he spoke with Stewart. A spirit of resilience and empowerment was injected into the conversation too. 

In regard to the grieving process, Smiley said so many details on this are shared in his new book. Entitled Sideshow: Living with Loss and Moving Forward with Faith this effort will present an earnest depiction of his journey with heartache from loss. Additionally, it will speak to his efforts of sitting in his emotions and allowing himself to lean into therapy to heal. 

Healing journeys are often filled with challenges, said Stewart. When speaking on healing from loss, he says leaning on God while working through therapy are essential. “I told God if you can help me…I can make it,” Smiley said. He also touched on the parallels he experienced by losing his son as his parents also lost his father when he was young. 

“I’m the grandson of grandparents who ended up going through the exact same thing–and I tried to model myself after my grandfather.” He adds that his grandfather didn’t get a chance to grieve because he was busy and was leading his family. Smiley says he is carving out the time to heal. The comedian feels he is leading and creating newer, healthier practices for himself. 

A noteworthy moment ensued when Rickey shared that bottling up your feelings can feel like a pressure cooker. “Not crying is building up pressure–every time you cry, you release steam.” He added: “Grief is greedy, it will come [whenever].” Some of the inopportune moments he’s had where he’s felt tears have just kept flowing have happened–but he states that it’s all a part of his healing journey. 

When he feels depleted, he says he does things he likes to do that make him happy. Serving others is something he feels charged up by too. Continuing to stay on the air of his radio show has also given him a sense of purpose as he’s moved through grief. He says that he’s been letting the audience be there for him as he’s actively working with his wide-ranging emotions. 

“Feel what you feel, express your emotions,” Smiley said. 

Another tip Smiley shared for those who have lost loved ones is to think about what they would want for your future and present self. He believes they want those grieving to move on and live happily. “What would they want us to do,” he questioned. “They want us to be happy because they are not suffering anymore,” he added. 

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