After losing her dad suddenly in 2017, Hannah set up the supper club, Grief Eats, as a way to meet other young people who were grieving whilst honouring her Dad’s love of cooking. Here she explores grief in the digital age, the online platforms offering support networks and the Northern women helping others understand and talk about loss.
It is a well-known fact that what you see on social media is often a veneer; a curated selection of life’s best moments that contribute to an aesthetically pleasing grid. For many, social media – and Instagram especially – offers a slice of escapism; a place where you can go to dream up brand new wardrobes and future sunny getaways, or lust after interiors you cannot afford. While it can be extremely easy to whittle away time getting lost in perfection, sometimes what we actually crave is something much rawer, more un-filtered and fraying at the edges. Something that represents our everyday lives.
Grief and loss are topics you might think do not have a rightful place on Instagram but in reality, it is quite the opposite. Grief – in whatever form it may take – is something that will affect us all at some point in our lives and, unfathomably, the pandemic has meant many more young people are experiencing it too soon. To read or write about grief in the presence of strangers on the internet may seem strange or daunting, but for many it is a much-needed cathartic outlet, serving as a platform that provides a safe, supportive space when traditional bereavement support is limited. During a lockdown where so many of us do not have a shoulder to lean on when we need it most, it seems like the perfect place.
The area of Instagram dedicated to grief is the one I find to be most authentic. There are no guises, no attempts for perfection. People talk openly about their losses and experiences of grief in a way that is entirely refreshing. For the majority of us who have sadly lost someone too soon, we feel angry, upset and isolated – even more so during this past year. The platform allows us to come together and to share our day-to-day experiences, although not just the sad ones. We may be grieving, but we also find ourselves inspired by each other’s resilience and discover a collective comfort in sharing past memories. We can laugh together at the terrible, misjudged comments we’ve received over the years.
Back in December 2019, I came up with an idea to start up a supper club series in Leeds, for people navigating loss in their 20s and 30s, calling it ‘Grief Eats’. After losing my own dad at the age of 24, I felt like this sort of thing was missing – and especially in the North. Both eager and nervous in equal measure, I held my first sold-out supper club in my own home in February 2020 (albeit a bit rustic and makeshift – it was my first go), and I was so excited for it to turn into something bigger, and for young people to realise they weren’t alone in what they were going through. But as the pandemic took hold and thus no way of hosting supper clubs, I quickly realised that I would need another avenue. Instagram seemed like a suitable place to continue with Grief Eats in the interim, and perhaps even open up an opportunity to write about my own journey with grief.
In all honesty, I never envisaged nor felt a personal need to create a space on Instagram to talk about my experiences and felt convinced that face-to-face interaction would be more meaningful than online. But as I began to share my thoughts and musings on the topics of grief, food and anything else that came to mind, I found myself taken aback by the reception. In turn, I have discovered an entire online community and area of Instagram that represented something I didn’t know I needed.
While I don’t intend to post on social media forever and feel excited to get back to the original plan for Grief Eats, the ‘grief’ space on Instagram really has been a lifeline at times, and I hope my posts have helped others in their journey too. I would also like to mention a number of other inspiring women in the North who are similarly opening up the conversation around grief and loss, and who I am lucky enough to share this online space with. When I lost my dad at the age of 24, I didn’t know anyone my age who had been through something similar. These women, having experienced their own losses, are bravely ensuring this doesn’t have to be the case:
Jo Ritchie and Faye Dawson: Projecting Grief
Projecting Grief is a portraiture and interview project which explores the use of creativity to help heal from loss. Jo started this project after losing her own brother in 2017, and photographs those who are using creative skill as a distraction, a relief or an expression of their grief. The beautiful portraits are accompanied by the person’s story, written by Faye. Jo and Faye are based in Leeds.
After taking a break from her art practice, Gwen has now returned and has found that it has provided her with a space to process her thoughts around grief. Gwen lost her dad in 2004 and her mum in 2017. Her collages are thoughtful and expressive, and often capture feelings of grief you find difficult to put into words. Gwen in based in Leeds.
The Everyday Fertility
Kate, based in Manchester, started an Instagram page during lockdown seeking to normalise the conversation around infertility and baby loss. Kate has been extremely brave to share her own journey and is supporting others going through the same by opening up the conversation on fertility issues.
Words: Hannah Borkin
Feature image: Courtesy of Projecting Grief