Friday, June 2, 2023
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Does Posting About Grief Online Really Work?

I booked a trip to Mount Everest three months after my husband Cam died of 34 gallbladder cancer. I picture myself looking up at the mountains, prayer flags waving around me, me hiding in the ice and heights. I imagined the photos I would have taken, tagged with the treatment. A month ago, I hiked a crater in New Zealand and used our savings to go whale watching in the Pacific Ocean. A few months later, I found a literary agent, and my career as a grief writer was thriving. That was my most productive year and I have Instagram posts to prove it.

As a widow, my life has become more digital. Cam and I recently moved overseas for a new job at a film studio while he was ill. I have a small group of friends but find it difficult to cultivate these relationships. I was erratic and often canceled plans for a last-minute rush to the hospital. Dealing with cancer has made things so hectic and erratic that I’m so exhausted that I can’t realize how alone I am and can’t predict how I’ll be when it’s all over with Cam and my new life as a widow begins Lonely. When I chose a funeral dress, someone my age was preparing for a wedding, and I didn’t know a single person in my small community who had experienced such a loss. Widowhood is, for lack of a better word, my niche.

At the hospice where Cam died, I picked up a brochure about grief support groups. I love being part of the grief gang, but it’s more of a social club for people who have experienced loss later in life than I have. I went online to find like-minded people, and from the cocoon of my bed, thousands of young grieving people were just a hashtag or DM away. I found a group on Instagram called Hot Young Widows Club and messaged a follower whose loss reflected a lot of things about me. I followed her and she followed back. We live in different time zones, so we help each other out when other people can’t be together, or communicate things we don’t feel comfortable saying out loud. This is the beginning of a true friendship.

My Instagram feed used to be pretty pics of hikes and nice clothes, but quickly turned into all things sad. As we enter the age of a pandemic and loss is everywhere, I feel caught and heard, a newfound solidarity with a sisterhood of grief. Like the accounts I follow, I started making my Instagram an outlet for my loss and pain, and then a regression. At first, it was cathartic. A selfie taken on my bathroom floor with a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. A view from the hill, with commentary on the literal and figurative “climbing” of grief. Some of these titles have given me ideas for articles, and sometimes I just can’t keep up with the writing. Grief, it turns out, is a hot topic. I watch my articles go live on the online store like a hawk, taking a quick screenshot to share on social media. Then I’ll wait for the comments and DMs to come in, from people who confide in me about the pain of losing a loved one, or are inspired to seize each day and find the strength to do something big, like go to Mount Everest.



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