Updated: May 5
Grief is a unique and personal experience - like love - and despite the certainty that we will all be touched by it multiple times in our lives, there is little general understanding of grief. When all is well in our lives, our culture avoids facing death and loss - social media shows us very little of illness, loss, death, or grief.
This means that when you lose someone, grief can feel lonely. Friends and family, even despite their best intentions, may not know how or be able to offer support. Fortunately, there are a growing number of online grief resources and communities, and in the midst of this pandemic, the internet is providing us with connection and support. Below I share some of my story and some resources that have helped me.
In July 2019 my partner died of liver cancer, we married in the week before his passing. The 6-month period of his illness and failed, brutal treatments was terrifying, overwhelming and traumatic, but we were together, and strongly supported by our parents.
My grieving started in relative numbness, and I had no understanding of what lay ahead of me. I discovered living in deep grief could be a lonely and confusing place: No one who knew Andrea was grieving in quite the same way as me, just as everyone's relationship to him was different.
I found support and understanding in online communities of young widows, where people shared the honest truth of their grief. In December 2020 I took part in a 2 day course on Yoga Therapy for Dying and Grief, and from there found a small community of other women touched by deep grief and/or with a professional interest in supporting grievers.
Amongst these groups of widows and grievers I found that there is always someone who has felt the same way, there is space for no-filter sharing, and I can reach out for support, day or night.
The below resources are shared purely on my own personal experience. What we find helpful is unique, and what we are ready to receive can change with time - the period of early grief, when it is at it's most raw and consuming, is usually different to how grief is experienced years down the line.
For widows/widowers/partner loss:
The name is a little embarrassing to share, but the humorous and ballsy approach to the club that no one wants to join was also part of it's appeal for me: I'm a member of HYWC or the Hot Young Widow's Club.* It's not about being hot, or 'young' or legally married, but is an online support group for those around the world who have lost their person. 'We do our best to include as many people as possible: men, women, gay, straight, unmarried... if the labels fits, you get to wear it.' The community is non-judgemental and inclusive.
*This online forum is no longer associated with Nora McInerny and the name has changed to The Widow's Club. New members can join by referral, so please contact me if you would like to join.
HYWC was set up by Nora McInerny, who I see as a sassy patron saint of young widows. She has done a popular TED talk (video below) about why we need to ditch the phrase "moving on' in regards to grief. She's also published numerous books, started a social enterprise, and a podcast "Terrible, thanks for asking" - the response some of us honestly want to give when people ask "How are you?' The early episodes share Nora's story of experiencing her husband and father's death from cancer and a miscarriage, all within a few months.
A similar, but more modestly named, organisation for young widows exists in the UK: WAY (Widowed and Young), which has facebook forums and regional events (in non-covid times), plus online socials. WAY UP is for widows age 50+.
All Grievers Welcome:
If you've lost someone you love, want to support someone you love in their grief, or just want to learn more, the following may help you.
Megan Devine watched her partner drown in a terrible accident in 2009. She was a psychotherapist, but she soon realised that nothing she had learnt prepared her for this devastation, and that understanding of grief was desperately lacking. She has written a notable book "It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand". She has a strong community on social media and runs writing courses for grievers.
Julia Samuels MBE has been working with grieving families in the UK for over 30 years, and published two books on grief. She created '8 Pillars of Strength' - a holistic framework to help people understand the impact of their loss, and to assist them to create their own unique toolbox of support.
Marie lost her partner to cancer and her personal process inspired her to become a grief coach. She coaches 1:1, shares grief content on Instagram, and runs several programmes - mostly for women - who are experiencing any type of grief. These include "Sisterhood in Grief" and "The Empowered Year' a year-long group grief coaching programme.
I came across Mira in HYWC, she lost her partner to cancer and began sharing her writing about this experience. She is passionate about changing the conversation around grief "Let's normalize it, despite living in a society that tells us to stay silent. This is what it’s really like: Indescribably painful, deeply hard, and profoundly beautiful."