It's easy to criticise modern technology. But for those of us who have lost parents, a space to share experiences is a vital comfort among the loneliness of griefby Suchandrika Chakrabarti / January 13, 2020 / Leave a comment
It’s New Year’s Eve 2019 and I’m going nowhere. Instead, I’m curled up on the sofa, smiling at my phone.
I’m reading through a Whatsapp group chat that was set up a few weeks before. Everyone in the chat is a stranger to each other, but we all share a significant life experience: grief. The group is called “Young Orphans.”
Tonight, we’re talking about sex: more specifically, the effect that grieving has on the sex drive. The general consensus is that grief can provoke an urge to create life in its early to mid-stages—but then there’s a long, slow drop-off in libido as the sorrow continues. There are a lot of jokes about how this knowledge might’ve changed our early perceptions of grief. Those of us who lost parents in our teenage years reflect on how little we understood about ourselves back then.
I lost my parents as a teenager, in 2000 and 2003, just before the internet became such an essential part of our everyday lives. Grief by its nature is an isolating experience, but without the means to search for other people in my situation, I can now see how incredibly lonely an experience it was for me. The enormity of my loss scared people who hadn’t yet faced grief—not just my 19-year-old friends and peers, but older adults, too.
It’s not an experience I would wish on anyone. Sadly, though, for some in the group, it’s searingly new, and they’re continually discovering grief’s landmines.
Katharine Horgan set up the group on 9th December 2019. A charity worker, she was moved to create the “Young Orphans” in a personal capacity in response to a message retweeted by the popular podcast Griefcast. The tweet asked how people without parents faced the Christmas holidays. As Horgan says, they were asking if there were resources for “young orphans’ who aren’t children.” She saw lots of responses saying “‘no, but I wish there was!’”
“I finally thought ‘I wish there was too—let’s do this.’” She put a screenshot of the chat—illustrated by a red-haired, freckled orphan, Annie—on her Twitter feed, and invited strangers into her DMs.
That’s a story that could only have happened once the internet had matured: a podcast’s Twitter…