When I experienced my first loss I was ten years old. People gravitated towards me. In their eyes it couldn’t get much worse than a little girl losing her mom.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the same gravitational pull probably didn’t exist for my then 21-year-old brother.
In everyone’s eyes, he was old enough to deal with the fallout of losing a mom; somehow not being a child was supposed to make him immune to the long-term process that is grieving. He had been with her every day while she was at the hospital, he was with her in her last moments, and if you ask me this should have made him a bigger recipient of support. It shouldn’t have created an island around him that people were too afraid, or uncomfortable, to approach.
No one should have to deal with this new normal alone. Not in 2003 when we lost our mom and definitely not in 2014 when social media and online platforms allow so much connectivity.
Which is why I felt compelled to create a website for the purpose of offering a resource, community and a sense of privacy that inspires exploring grief on your own terms. Because if you’re reading this and you’ve lost someone you loved, you are not alone. Statistics show that before the age of 20, 1 in 9 Americans will lose someone they love.
I know this from personal experience because my second major loss happened three months after I turned 21. From the age of 10 to 21 I was raised by my maternal grandmother, she was my legal guardian, an extension of my conscience and my very own comedian. I too was with her each and every time she was admitted to the hospital. I was one of two people who the doctors would openly discuss her condition with. I shouldered a lot every time she had a seizure, every time she was so drugged up she only remembered our dog’s name or when swallowing was a task to be relearned.
All of the above have afforded me the right to not feel alone in my grief. No matter how uncomfortable this might make the world, I deserve to know (and be able to speak to) people who have also experienced a loss. If I’ve been forced into an army of grievers, I shouldn’t have to guess who’s soldiering along with me.
When my grandmother was in the hospital and her passing was more a question of when and not if, I was texting back and forth with two friends who had lost loved ones. In the weeks that followed I found so much comfort in just knowing those two friends were there. With one I would just sit and exist in a silence I so desperately needed. He never asked if I was doing okay, he just knew that all I needed was to sit.
With the other friend, a text saying “I love you” or “I’m here” was the extent of our conversations for a while, because she, like me, knew that no other words would count.
Using my website, I wanted to multiply this effect. I needed to know that a 16 year old in Texas or a 22 year old guy in New Jersey would not be left to (1) deal with the grief of someone they love dying plus (2) feel like no one else understood them.
I’m now well into my campaign of letting others know that there is no shame in grieving. One article, person and social media post at a time, the conversation around grief is being reframed and Millennials are being welcomed into it. Because, in a world where the ephemeral is constantly gaining popularity, there’s also a deep need for something that exists when you need a reminder at 3am that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and someone that gets the 3 am crying and the need that follows.