How social media impacted my grief.

 

I’ve been asked numerously how Facebook hurt me so deeply?  The answer is as complex as grief itself. It began with platitudes, be it people writing small things such as “We love you Gabby”, “We miss you” or “You are so strong”. I was the complete antithesis of strong. I was literally crumbling into a pile of tiny pieces.

I desperately needed and wanted those I love  to reach out. But years later only two have and for them I am truly grateful for. Maybe my writing, my words and how I expressed and articulated myself appeared strong. But, being able to verbalise ones emotions and thoughts didn't make me strong, it just meant I was capable of articulating well.

My need to honour Adam, who died from Cancer, was vital and almost a living and breathing entity on its own.

I couldn't understand at that point in time , that what I was saying was too painfully honest for most. A close girlfriend told me repeatedly that Facebook wasn't the right platform for my voice and in her wisdom, she was correct.

I was drowning in the grief and multiple layers of trauma I was trying to process.

People were telling me “Everything was going to get better”, “Eventually I would return to my old self” and “Adam was no longer in pain” - and I didn’t believe or accept it. Every comment left me feeling inadequate, isolated and in pain. I was unable to do what society expected of me.

Toxic positivity is a hugely damaging and painful problem. It should never be used when communicating with those who are grieving. It repeatedly wounds. There is nothing positive to be gained or found when a child dies. There is no " At least..." to be discovered.

Truthfully, I knew people couldn’t understand and I didn’t want them to, because that would mean they had lived the horror I was living.

Despite Facebook having a negative impact I couldn’t fathom why my greatest strength, which was, and is, my ability to communicate and connect with others, was failing me so badly?  Despite my ever-increasing precarious mental health, I kept trying harder to connect with those I loved.

And then, it began to worsen. There appeared to be an expiry date on how long you can speak about grief on social media. Incongruously people began attacking me.

A life-long friend ranted about how I hadn’t responded to texts, how I needed to get on with my life and how my grief was selfish. And then people would begin making comparisons. One such comparison was a woman arguing that weekend access for her child was the same as the death of a child.  Another compared a tree falling on her roof to Adam's death. Her rationale was she understood as having to temporarily move out of her house put a hold on her life.

I understand now that people can only use their own point of reference but I had to learn this. It has taken me many years to forgive those who hurt me. But, forgive or maybe it is accept I have and I would welcome all who walked away back into my life.

Some of the comments that hurt the most were those pushing their religious beliefs. I made it clear from the outset statements like “Adam was in a better place” or that “God only takes the good ones” shattered me.

Everyone has their right to their own beliefs But I couldn’t cope when told that if I had believed in God - or even if I had prayed - Adam would still be alive. Such statements are so dangerous. The implication was I could have changed Adam’s mortality.

When your child dies, your sense of self-worth is decimated. Others attacking your beliefs and values is heart-wrenching.

As a society, we need to stop making assumptions. We all have our own beliefs and coping strategies. Maybe the need to share is human nature? Nevertheless, doing so can be damaging.

Facebook’s hypocrisy and shallowness were impacting my support network as they began to feel powerless in their ability to help me.I discovered social media destroyed me even further. It literally and figuratively brought me to my knees. I was hurt by comments and opinions.

I found myself wanting to educate others about childhood and adolescent cancers, pain, loss, grief and trauma. I wanted to be heard and I wanted people to recognise and acknowledge what had happened to Adam and my family was cataclysmic.

So I removed myself from Facebook for my own mental health. It is still a huge trigger now, but I’m slowly readjusting to using it for media or educational programs and for the sake of Adam Blue - the foundation I started in my son’s name.

My incredible son Adam died from a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour, which is a sarcoma subtype. Sarcomas are malignant tumours that form on soft tissue or bone in the body.

Adam’s tumour grew in the nerves on the right side of his pelvis. He was only 21 when diagnosed and died six months later, a month after his 22nd birthday.

Adam’s cancer and subsequent death taught me a great deal. What stood out was the lack of resources to assist and support grieving parents and their families.

I've spent the past years establishing Adam Blue in his memory. I wanted to build a foundation that assists grieving parents on a practical level.

When Adam died my life was completely obliterated.

A significant issue was that no one knows how much an organisation such as Adam Blue is needed, until they are personally exposed to the devastation the loss of a child delivers.

Adam Blue comes from a holistic and inclusive place, catering to parents and their families’ daily needs.

Adam Blue is still a work in progress.

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