Before Rich died, I’d tried to limit the amount of time I spent on social media. I’d deleted my Facebook account a few years ago, and all our holidays were digital detoxes. At most we’d whatsapp friends and family. After he died however, I knew instinctively that social media was going to help me, a lot. I first reached out on Instagram. I still don’t know why but for some reason it feels like a space where there’s more room to be authentic. Twitter just doesn’t have the same feel, and whilst I’ve kept my account open I’m not using it. Yes I know that there’s a lot of crap on Instagram, that many people edit their images, and that it’s used to bully and diminish. And yes I know all about the widow-fishers because I’m blocking them daily. But beyond the darker side, Instagram is where I went to add to my grief tribe, and the people I’ve found, or who have found me, are propping me up. I’m not one of those people who’s really fussed about the number of likes, but when people take the time to message me to say ‘you’re helping me’, it brings a huge amount of comfort. And I make sure to tell those who in turn help me.
Other support networks have come mainly in the form of discussion forums. Widowed and Young have an online forum and closed Facebook group and whilst I don’t often post on the forum I have connected with a few members and we email each other off-site to check in, often daily. Similarly Soaring Spirits International have a discussion forum called Widowed Village, which has proven useful, as has Macmillan’s online community for bereaved spouses – you don’t have to have lost someone to cancer to be able to use it.
Next to Instagram though, the discussion forum that has provided the most support has been the Writing your Grief alumni group. Megan Devine (who wrote the brilliant ‘It’s ok that you’re not ok’) created Refuge in Grief, and out of that the writing your grief course. I have no shame in admitting that I signed up for the writing course just so that I’d have access to a closed online community of articulate people who would share their feelings and emotions, and corroborate mine, and my goodness, they certainly haven’t disappointed. Once you’ve completed the course you’re eligible to join the alumni group, which for me is a place full of ‘my sort of people’. People who aren’t afraid to speak their truth.
Finally, I have to mention Yoga for Grief Support, which I found thanks to the Death Dialogues Project. Not social media in any way shape or form, but Sandy, who lost her partner suddenly and so knows exactly what this obliteration feels like, has put together an online gentle 8 week yoga programme, designed to comfort and soothe the profoundly grieving mind and body. Her videos are still the only thing that help me sleep a little.