Skip to content

On the value of public grieving, in 22 Tweets.


It is 0203hrs. I got up to take an hourlong shower and eat raspberry yoghurt with milo cornflakes.

I am thinking a lot about grief and how humans attempt to express the inarticulable and intangible.

We calibrate our vocabularies to match a public pool of sentiment in order for others to approximate understanding and solicit empathy.

This means that much of our capacities for self-expression and public grieving are haphazardly curated for audienced responding.

This also makes obscure grief for catharsis and purging, and maybe we lose the value of therapy through self-indulgence.

I like Twitter afterdark because my friends come out in various states of emotional honesty and distress.

Sometimes these transient intimacies are helpful, especially when you imagine that stars and hearts and thumbsups translate into solidarity.

But on the spaces I frequent on Tumblr, it perpetually feels like afterdark.

Alongside viral reblogs in-the-making, anonymous word wit, and explosive cat gifs, the afterdark of Tumblr is frighteningly public.

There are humans behind usernames and handles and Tumblr themes musing about death, grief, and loss under their breath to millions of eyes.

I always never know whether to scroll past and hope they make it through, or reach out through a message. Most times I toggle between both.

I see how it is tempting to brand Tumblr afterdark as mere teenage angst, Internet cultures of emo, or first world exaggerations of grief.

But every time I experience an afterdark Tumblr friend dropping off the grid suddenly, I feel a bit helpless with my distanced worrying.

Besides catharsis, I think there is great value to grieving publicly, to nobody in particular, even incoherently.

One, you realize that grief and vulnerability is very involuntary and very human. And in these lapses, empathy supersedes human difference.

Two, you see that grief is collective and shared, across circumstances and spaces and peoples, so it feels less lonely inside yourself.

Three, you reflect on others’ grieving and learn to give your grief a name, which makes it all the more real but also all the more tameable.

At the risk of romanticizing pain and grief, I think public grieving is a very beautiful, intimate, and necessary process.

Beautiful, because you develop lenses to read value and growth into experiences, such as when pain is also resilience.

Intimate, because you learn how to pull through pain to get to the other side, such as when you give your grief a name.

Necessary, because I have made sense of a little bit more of my world at 0239hrs, and can now go back to bed.

Goodnight, afterdark. See you in the morning.

Beep here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s