Grief and Loss: the unexpected corner of social media that is a source of collective comfort

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.

Gwennaëlle Cook

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

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Instagram isn’t all that bad, is it?

Shahed Ezaydi discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Instagram and how curating your own media streams could ensure that in the future we look to use social media platfroms as a tool for good.

Words: Shahed Ezaydi

It’s a funny old thing, Instagram. It is not honestly something I thought I would still be using in my mid-20s, or any form of social media for that matter. I first logged on to Instagram in 2013 and I genuinely thought it might just be another trend, like Bebo, that would be all the rage for a couple of years, and meet the same demise as its failed predecessors. But, here we are. We are approaching a brand-new decade and we are STILL obsessed with Instagram. I mean, I can count on one hand the people I know who are not on Instagram. They are a rarity and I wholeheartedly commend them for resisting the overwhelming tide of snaps and stories. 

Of course, Instagram (and social media in general) has garnered quite the bad reputation in recent years. And rightly so. We spend more and more of our time looking at screens and scrolling through various social media apps. We are being overloaded with content all the time, and this over-consumption has led to us as a society having to face some nasty truths. 

Instagram was highlighted a couple of years ago by the charity, Ditch the Label, as being the social media platform where cyber-bullying was most rife. As Instagram is an image-based platform, it makes sense that cyber-bullying and harassment would be more common on there – it has created a space where people can visually compare themselves with others. It could be centred in appearance or body image or maybe in showcasing the perfect social life.

By Make Room Zine

The endless scroll through Instagram feeds can also have a negative impact on our mental health. I know it certainly has for me in the past. I think we sometimes forget that Instagram is something a person carefully curates and only shows others what they choose for them to see. 

But, it’s not all bad. There are some positives to be gained from the world of Instagram. Although it has made me anxious and I do still sometimes find myself comparing my life to others, it has also had a positive impact on my state of mind. It has pushed me through some low points through just knowing that there are others who are feeling the same things that I’m feeling. The simple act of knowing that you are not alone is sometimes enough.

By Melody Hansen

The huge positive with Instagram is that it is such a necessary and needed tool for education and awareness. There are countless people, organisations, and platforms using Instagram for the good. To share knowledge and resources on topics and issues that I for one was never taught at school. From intersectionality, to the reality of fast fashion, to colonialism and our whitewashed history. Stories and narratives are shared and given a platform – one that the mainstream media might not have given them and consequently, I might not have heard or read these stories. It has educated me a great deal. I once read somewhere that our Instagram feed should be built up as though we are reading a magazine or a newspaper. So that when you are scrolling through, you pick up information about a wide range of topics and interests, and you gain something from your time on there. And this is definitely something I have tried to incorporate into my own digital feed.

They say with knowledge comes power. In this case it is not so much power, but I found that there was a need within myself to want to do something to help in some way. You learn about all the injustices and inequalities in the world, and for me, this education formed into a process of action. I have been able to use Instagram to talk and engage with different people and groups that I might not have had the chance to meet offline. For example, this is how I ended up joining SheFest – by coming across their Instagram account and seeing all the wonderful work they were doing locally in my own backyard.

By Rachel Cook

Like anything, Instagram comes packaged up with both good features and bad. Obviously, it shouldn’t be the one and only place we get our information and knowledge from. But it was such a useful entry point for me. You can uncover art and articles and organisations and campaigns, things you might not have seen or heard of otherwise, that can then lead you elsewhere (probably off Instagram) where you can learn more about the world. And really, isn’t that what all any of us want to do?

And so, here are some of my recommended Instagram accounts to follow that showcase perfectly how women in the North are taking action:

SheFest: A Sheffield based not-for-profit organisation that champions self-defining women’s rights and gender equality, through a whole host of inclusive events. They also run an annual fringe festival, in line with International Women’s Day, providing a female fronted addition to the North’s cultural calendar.

Aurelia Magazine: An online magazine based in Manchester/Liverpool that is dedicated to showcasing the personal feelings, thoughts, and experiences of women and non-binary people. 

Salvaged Project: Lauren, based in Sheffield, has created a community that both promotes second hand fashion (sells some really cool clothes!) and raises vital funds for projects working with those affected by war. 

Every Month: A Manchester based charity that provides free menstrual products to those living in poverty. Their period packs contain tampons, pads and a chocolate bar. Plus, their Instagram provides really useful and educational content around periods and period poverty.

Girl Gang: Spanning across the North, – in Sheffield, Manchester, and Leeds – Girl Gang has built up quite the community and hosts an array of events and workshops. They focus on inclusivity, creativity, and breaking down social barriers.

Love for the Streets: Based in Manchester and co-founded by Lily Fothergill, LFTS is a driving force for social change in young people. They aim “to empower 5.2 million young people to make an impact in their local community.” Their Instagram gives you a chance to see and learn from the work that they, and the young people they help, are doing.