In 2012, Litsa Williams and Eleanor Haley created the What’s Your Grief? website, designed to provide resources for those at loss. Since then, it’s grown into a supportive online community, where the founders write articles, host online courses and a podcast, and interact with people on social media. Williams and Haley released their first book, What is your sorrow? Lists to help you in case of loss, in September. Here they talk about grief, COVID-19, and a better understanding of the universal experience of loss.
Why did you create this organization together?
Eleanor Haley: We met while working for an organization in Baltimore that supported people experiencing sudden and unexpected loss. We were meeting people in hospitals at the worst time of their lives. As anyone who has experienced grief and loss knows, everyone looks different. We both experienced parental loss in early adulthood. I have a background in counseling psychology and Litsa’s in social work. So we were trying to meet people’s needs because we couldn’t find the resources we wanted in terms of online support. So we said, “Let’s create the content that we want as professionals and as people who have experienced grief ourselves.
What was your initial goal when you created the organization?
HE: We started very humbly. It was almost just a little “hobby”. We didn’t have a lot of resources, but we were confident in the way we talked about grief. I don’t think we ever imagined it would become what it is today.
Litsa Williams: When we started, we used the tagline “Bereavement support for the rest of us” because we felt like the bereavement support that was out there was created for a really different type of person. Neither of us, when we went through our own grief, were people in the traditional therapy support group. Bereavement support does not have to be therapy or support groups. We saw a gap and wanted to try and fill that gap in a way that feels more natural and normal. So, we said, “How can we create spaces and creative initiatives online and on social media that fill this space?
Why is grief education important?
HE: Everyone experiences a loss at some point. There are so many myths and misconceptions about what grief looks like, how to grieve, what’s healthy and what’s not. Once we realize that there is no right way to grieve, there is no timeline for grieving, there is no “normal” because everything is unique to the person and the loss they have suffered, this facilitates navigation.
OL: It is not only the general public, but also professionals who apply these misconceptions. Something happened on our Instagram the other day where people were going back and forth saying, ‘My doctor basically told me I’d be going through the five stages of grief and it’s been two years, so the fact that I was still grieving was an indication that something was wrong with me. So, unfortunately, they are also professionals who have not received a good education, and they further reinforce myths about things like “stages of grief”. If someone thinks they are doing their grief “wrong”, it takes their grief and makes it much worse.