Creating Grief Support Spaces
You know, life is hard. Well…I know you know life is hard…but let me say it anyways. Life is hard and, at one point or another, each and every person walking the face of this Earth will experience a significant loss.
7.4 billion people x however many losses they experience = a lot of loss.
Looking at it from a different angle, according to the World Health Organization in 2012 56 million people died worldwide. Let’s make a really conservative estimate that, on average, each person who dies leaves behind 5 people who grieve them.
56 million people x 5 = 280 million people experiencing their own individual grief.
280 million people trying to figure out how to live a life redefined by death.
280 million unique expressions of grief.
Litsa and I abide by the philosophy that grief is different for everyone. Here are the reasons why:
- We all come to grief from different points with different life experiences and carrying different loads.
- One can usually assume that the person who died had a unique relationship with each individual person who grieves them.
- No two people are the same.
Recently an Internet passer-by told us that we should know our place and not get carried away developing different ways to offer online grief support because one-on-one therapy and group counseling is the gold standard for grief. This person felt it was irresponsible to offer online options to help people develop the tools that they self-identify as being useful (I’m paraphrasing here) because they are vulnerable and should be directed to free hospice counseling and groups if they need support.
This isn’t the first time (and I am sure it won’t be the last) that we felt like we had to say,
“We get that you don’t get us. We get that we’re not for everyone. We get that what we do is a little unorthodox by some standards.”
We’re used to saying these types of things. We’re used to asking people to try to believe that ‘different’ doesn’t have to equal ‘bad’ and that ‘new’ doesn’t have to replace ‘tried and true’.
We get it. We cut our teeth in the field of grief and bereavement, providing in person support and psychoeducation to grieving individuals. This work taught us so much. Honestly, way more than either of our graduate school educations could have. Through working directly with people, providing bereavement aftercare, running groups, workshops, and therapy, we experienced the value of in-person support first hand. However we also learned that grief support can never, and should never, be conceptualized as one-sized-fits all and to keep an open mind about the many forms that “coping” and “healing” can take.
Also, if we’re being realistic, we have to look beyond tried and true because (1) many people will never be open to seeing a therapist or support group (2) many people don’t have the resources to attend sessions on a consistent basis (3) many people will try these things and have unsatisfactory experiences and (4) many people will want tools and education to supplement the support they receive in-person. While the experience of finding the perfect grief therapist or support group is transformative for some, for others tools like writing, art, advocacy, memorialization, and continued bonds bring the most healing.
When prominent grief theorist, Dr. Kenneth Doka, was asked , “How do you even know if grief counseling or a support group or some other type of intervention is necessary to begin with?”, he responded by saying…
“… the truth is that most people—and studies vary between 80% to 90%—probably do pretty well without any formal intervention or may just need what we would call grief counseling in the sense of just some validation that says, “No, it’s understandable. No, you’re doing okay”.
He goes on to say that, for that 80-90%, reading grief books is often helpful, because it, “…provides that basic validation. It provides some good psychoeducation. It may provide some ideas for coping and certainly says that most people get through this.” You can read more here, and his sentiments are consistent with many others that we won’t share in the interest of time.
In reality, many people grieve somewhere in the space between “I’m handling things on my own” and “I’m going to a therapist or a support group”. And although innovative and creative resources come along everyday, many people grieving in this space will find that things like validation, psychoeducation, ideas for coping, and support are hard to find.
So as you may have guessed, and as I’m sure we’ve said too many times to count, this is why we started What’s Your Grief. We left the traditional world of in-person grief support to exist in the wild west of online grief support because we wanted to expand beyond tried and true. Our tagline is ‘Grief support for the rest of us’ and by ‘the rest of us’ we basically mean anyone who’s ever felt left high and dry by the grief resources available to them (it’s really a very broad definition).
We know our readers will come and go (that’s the point, isn’t it?), but while you’re sitting in this space with us, for however long or short that may be, we want to make your time worthwhile. We also want you to know that we believe there is no right way to grieve; there are very few wrong ways to cope; and everyone deserves to have quality grief support and psychoeducation. We are two voices and a small community of grief friends (that’s you!) trying to help make the space between a little more livable. If we’re not cutting it yet, we’re sorry, but we’ll keep trying! And by the way, we’re not alone here. There are many pioneers in the space between and we are always ready and willing to point you in their direction if you tell us what you’re looking for.
Finally, to make a long story longer, we just want you to know about the few spaces we’ve managed to construct here in the void. We’ve created the following spaces (or platforms if you prefer) based on what we’ve observed and been told by people who are grieving and grief professionals (so keep the feedback coming).
The old stuff
What’s Your Grief: That’s where you are right now. We have over 400 articles on grief. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, let us know.
Social media: We’re on most social media sites. You can find our most active SM communities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Podcast: If you don’t love reading, that’s okay. Our podcast offers grief support for those who like to listen. Full disclosure, we interrupt each other a lot and make a lot of stupid jokes. Hopefully you find that endearing.
Photogrief: PhotoGrief is a labor of love and we need your submissions!
Print resources: Print materials are really valuable resources for organizations to be able to give out as a part of their in-person support. For that reason we continue to grow our library of grief print resources. (FYI these print materials cost money which recoups our printing costs and allows us to keep eating so we can keep all the other free stuff happening)
The new stuff
Grief in six words: We were blown away by the six word stories shared with us by our readers (seriously, blown away). We were so sad there wasn’t one easy place for people to post them or for others to be able to read them (seriously, so sad). So we made a space and we’re calling it Grief in Six Words. We’re still working out some of the glitches but…drum roll please…it is LIVE! Go check it out and add your story.
The WYG School: Something we’ve mentioned before but which has evolved since, are the interactive eCourses focused on education and constructive coping that we’ve begun to develop. So far we’ve created a whopping three courses, all around very specific topics like photography, journaling, and parenting while grieving. But the excitement around these courses gave rise to the idea of starting an online grief school where people can learn and, in some cases, connect with others. Our goal with the school is to offer interactive and self-guided courses for people experiencing grief and grief support professionals. As we’ve said, our intention for these courses is to ofter psychoeducation, coping tools, and with some courses, an interactive support community. Pie-in-the-sky, someday we’d like to host teachers with expertise beyond our own who can run their own courses. Our mission above all else is to create a reliable and trusted space (in the space between). FYI this one costs money as well so that we can continue to run the school, keep the other free content at WYG up and running, and to continue to grow!
The New-Old Stuff
The WYG Bookclub: we were running this over on facebook and, as wonderful as our nearly 300 members were, the facebook platform just wasn’t working for us. So, we have relocated the WYG bookclub to the WYG forum. We are reading and discussing 12 grief books in 12 months so if you want to join just send us an email!
There it is, an overview of WYG. If you have a good name to sum up this WYG umbrella of stuff, let us know. Seriously. It’s just a start; something for those who want it. And for those who don’t, that’s okay, but tell us what you do want. What kind of support do you need? I can’t promise we can provide it, but I can promise that’s we’ll listen.
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