Writing is a form of allowing your soul to speak and the journey towards mending your heart after a loss. I write this blog specifically after the loss of my Godmother and Uncle/Godfather, who were both in their 50’s. Both lost their lives battling cancer. My godmother passed December 2016, the week after Christmas. For the last couple of years our main source of communication was via social media platforms. I struggled after her passing with my thoughts and emotions, week after week. I experienced insomnia, restless nights, high levels of anxiety, crying spells, and a sense of emptiness in my heart. Months passed by and with time helping, I seemed to be feeling like I could finally come up for a breath of fresh air, and I was breathing again. I had just swam up to the surface of the water, thoughts about my godmother were not intruding my mind on a daily basis anymore, and then I sunk again. Right when it felt like I was not drowning anymore, my uncle lost his battle very quickly to cancer in March 2017.
I grieved in the physical world and yet I also found myself grieving in the virtual world. After my godmother passed away, I wrote my form of a eulogy to her on her Facebook profile. My uncle was not one who had a Facebook page, but I found myself writing to him on a post on my profile. Hoping they would read my message, somehow.
And after taking some time to myself, I began to wonder about my actions and of others’ who dedicate public passages to their loved ones. Why do people grieve publicly and write to their loved ones on their posts? Why was I writing to both of them, when I knew they physically would not be able to read the posts? As I typed, I experienced beautiful, positive, therapeutic-like effects during my grieving, such as my heart feeling lighter, my body feeling less tension, and although I still felt empty, I felt a sense of relief.
Why? Well, this type of writing is the sentiment that dwells below our conscious level. Grieving has emerged outside of the physical world with the new generations. My understanding now is that life on social media platforms serve as open spaces, a public room for people to express pain in any way they would like, which may include an addition of an image or an emoji to add tone to the message.
To answer the earlier question, public grieving brings together virtual communal mourning. Grieving online can lead to long lasting connections with close friends and acquaintances and allows grievers and supporters to strengthen and develop new connections with others who are “in the same boat”. By showing my vulnerability in a public forum with others, essentially strangers to me, who knew my godparents, it allowed me to come to terms with their death. I did not feel as lonely. Others knew my pain. Others loved my godparents, too. Social media allows strangers to see each other’s pain and grieve with others. Allowing people to feel witnessed as they are not alone renders closeness, fulfillment, hope and strength from others. This added a therapeutic value to process, and to inch my way towards closure.
The impact of grief is a very real and sensitive issue to process at personal and professional levels. Grief and loss do not discriminate, and the resulting emotions trickle to various aspects in our lives. Grieving is different for everyone. It took me eight months to publish this and most of my courage came from my self-care and self-compassion. There is not a right or wrong way to grieve, nor is there a time-limit for grieving. At times, we may feel disappointed by not feeling “like our normal selves,” but tuning into ourselves is crucial. Ask yourself, what do I need in this moment? A good cry? Friends? Time off? Taking time off is pivotal to emotional development and growth in resiliency. It allows time to explore feelings and thoughts. Connecting with our real life friends, making sure we eat, drink water, and continuing to allow your soul to speak, in whatever healthy way you choose, leads to the path towards mending your heart, even when the holidays are right around the corner. The holidays are a reminder of who is not with us. Don't be afraid to show your vulnerability. Unmasking those emotions is freeing, beautiful and normal.