Virtual Grieving – It’s a Thing

So if someone would have told me two years ago that I would meet complete strangers via social media, and not only become great friends with some of them, but actually grieve their passing, I would have told that person they were nuts!

But now, two years into my diagnosis, I realize that the strong connections I’ve made don’t always come from face to face meetings. They come from knowing and understanding what each other is going through. Plain and simple.

And, as crazy as it sounds, Instagram and Facebook have facilitated this.

We don’t have to live in the same city, or even country, to be each other’s support system. I have met people from around the world. People whose lives and journeys I’ve become emotionally invested in. People who I now consider friends.

Some of them I chat (DM) with occasionally. Some I’m in contact with more often – weekly, or even daily. And others I simply follow and root for, via a like or a comment on one of their pics or posts.

But to whatever degree that connection is, it’s real.

And when I see a post about someone’s cancer progressing, or their last line of treatment not working, or a family member providing a health update because they’re not well enough to, it affects me.

On the flipside though, there are the encouraging and inspiring posts. The people who have gone through the unthinkable, and survived! The incredible stories that we wouldn’t know about without social media.

And you celebrate those victories together, just as strongly as you grieve the losses.

But the first time that one of your Insta friends pass, the grief that you feel catches you by complete surprise. It’s difficult to explain how the loss of someone you’ve never met before can have such an impact. But when you have cancer, every loss hits close to home – regardless of where you’re at in your journey.

And while to many, grieving the loss of a “stranger” might seem melodramatic, I think it’s a favour that we owe to ourselves AND to that person.

It’s a gut-wrenching reminder that life is cut short for too many people. And that for those of us still here, it’s so damned important to live life to the fullest – whatever that may mean for each of us.

Someone in particular who I want to honour and remember here is an incredible woman named Chiara. She was a fierce advocate for the Metastatic Breast Cancer community. The Going Flat MBC community.  And she had more style and charisma in her pinky finger, than I do in my entire body.

I didn’t know her well. In fact we only had a handful of interactions through Instagram. But she made a mark. And when I heard that she had passed, I was heartbroken – for her family, for her friends, and for the 18k+ people (myself included) who followed her journey and drew strength from it.

There’s been a lot of loss over the last couple of months.

Between Insta friends and Hollywood actors, the cancer community has taken a huge hit. We have lost a lot of beautiful souls and huge advocates. 

But all that’s telling us is that it’s time to shout a little louder. We need to carry on where they left off. We need to raise more awareness. And we need to demand that more of the funds raised go to metastatic breast cancer research, as it is estimated that only 2-7% of funds actually go to the study of metastasis.

And we need to do all of this so that someday we won’t have to grieve the loss of so many people in such a short period of time. 

With October comes Breast Cancer Awareness month. And sadly, a lot of “pinkwashing” by companies and corporations that don’t necessarily have the best of intentions. It’s a bandwagon for many of them. Not a cause.

So, I encourage you to do your homework and get behind organizations like Rethink. If you are passionate about MBC research, check out their MBC fund to know that your voice and your donations are actually going toward a lifesaving cause! – Alison Gareh

Will you be an Ally for women like Alison? Sign the MBC Allies pledge today.

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