Second Thoughts on BlogHer
“People who say blogging isn’t important can kiss my ass!”
–Annisa at BlogHer10 during the blogging through grief and loss session.
I’m back home now, and my thoughts and pictures are now coming to you wholly out of order based on what is on my mind as I sit down at the computer. I have a lot of pictures to download from the camera, a lot of stories to still tell.
Instead of keeping in order, I will jump over Friday and land in the middle of Saturday afternoon.
It is impossible to sit through an hour-long discussion on grief and loss without a lump in your throat. It is impossible not to grieve with the person as they describe their loss, and it is equally impossible to not think of the people you know who aren’t here. When there is a five-minute discussion on death, you can skate through the words without your body reacting. But sit with a discussion on loss for an hour, and you will find that your neck changes.
It felt important to be there, as if there was only one possible place I could be during this session slot. Though I couldn’t tell you why. I think my main reason to be there was for Cecily because I don’t think she has been allowed to grieve as deeply and as cleanly (or, perhaps a better term, messily) as she needs. I think people stick their hands in her grief by turning her loss into a political issue. And because of that, I wanted to be there and have her see that tangible support because I love her. And the reason could be, I decided, as simple as that.
Someone expressed before the session that she was afraid the session would become a cult of grief — not the panel so much as the audience. Because the Internet has a tendency to do that. We do it and we need to own it. We start reading someone after the loss occurs because we see everyone else reading them. And suddenly we are there, talking about it, grieving with them, jumping into the loss — and we take it to a deep place even though our connection rises out of a shallow trench. I’ve written about how others process your loss on the Internet before.
(Sidenote: I am not talking about grieving along someone you have known — even online friends — but opening up the relationship with grief.)
And is it wrong to jump into a stranger’s grief? Well, yes and no. I mean, I have passed by someone in pain in a public space, someone I don’t know at all, and I have sat down and spoken with them and listened to their story and cried with them, and said goodbye and moved on. Because we’re human and many of us cannot see someone in pain and simply walk by. We can do the same on the Internet with words as our virtual hug.
With the exception of the fact that support often comes initially and then disappears except for a random few, I don’t think there is much negative that comes to the griever who mourns with the support of the Internet. Some have said that there can never be a negative side of support, but I think there is for those who observe an outpouring of support and then later grieve and don’t receive that support they noticed earlier on given to other people.
In other words, I don’t think support can ever damage the grieving person, but I think it can damage the future griever when the future griever notices what can sometimes become a cult of grief — an outpouring that goes well beyond the initial reach of the griever in terms of how many people they know or who know them — but the future griever doesn’t receive that same kind of support for their own pain.
Which, of course, is not to say that those outpouring shouldn’t happen for the first griever, but simply to be mindful of the future grievers as well. That all people deserve support.
I think this session did the same good work that Glow in the Woods does — it provided a space for people to sit with their own grief, to get comfortable with the idea of reaching out to another person and comfort them, to discovering the right and wrong things to say.
I managed to not cry until Eden spoke. I don’t know why. She wasn’t even saying anything particularly upsetting, but I was remembering this night when Josh and I were at the food store and I was telling him about a post with Dave’s cancer and AA meetings and I’m not sure what else, and I remember standing near the dead chicken part section of the food store (apologies, as a vegetarian, I mentally divide the food store into edibles and dead things) and sobbing while I told him about something that moved me in that post, and I was suddenly reminded of it hearing her speak and I felt the tipping point occur, where the tears finally came.
And was it — as the person who raised the question of the cult of grief also feared — what amounts to a grief boner? Well, no. It wasn’t. It was catharsis. It was full circle. It was coming home again. I can say that because I lived it and I know how it felt in the moment.
Annisa said the quote at the top of the post and it’s true. Blogging is important. And possibly an even more brilliant quote came from Kim who said, “I don’t talk about it like this [and pointed to her mouth], I talk about it like this [and pretended to type].”
And that is perhaps the most important message I took away from both the panel and the hug that came from Eden at the end of the talk. That there is a reason we all write and it is because we need to write in order to make sense of our world. Our words are out there just as much for ourselves as they are for others.
And that is perhaps also the source for placing our hands in someone else’s grief. Because we know how our grief feels in our body (and everyone experiences personal grief), and perhaps, when we involve ourselves in another person’s grief, we are merely touching their grief to see if it feels similar to our own. And it is just another small echo of “me too” that we take and give.