GUEST BLOG: The Grief Gang brought to you by Amber Jeffrey
My name is Amber Jeffrey and I am the creator and founder of The Grief Gang Instagram page and podcast. But before I tell you how that came to be, let me take you back to the 25th of June 2016.
On that day 4 years ago, my world turned upside down. My mum, Susan Valentine died of an unexpected heart attack. I was 19. It was completely unexpected, our mum lead a healthy lifestyle with no signs that something like this was on the cards.
As you can imagine, I was lost. I didn't know my head from my arse when she died. I was thrown into a world without a mum, trying to navigate around it.
It was a whirlwind, full of lots of ending of friendships and family ties. They didn't understand me anymore. I didn't understand me anymore for that matter. Everything I thought mattered shifted overnight, I no longer cared for the things pre-bereaved 19 year old Amber did.
Fast forward 3 years after mum died and things took a funny turn, in my head that is. I had sort of prided myself during those years that my mental health didn't slip and "I've got this grief thing in the bag"...How wrong I was.
I started to decline and intrusive thoughts entered. Suicidal really. Didn't wanna be here...but then also didn't want to die? It was then I decided I need help.
I seeked counselling and therapy, unfortunately it didn't work for me. I say didn't work for me, but really I just kept getting shit therapists. So I sacked that off.
Now we're at the good part...
I was on holiday with my partner in Morocco and it came just like that. I'd been listening to podcasts all holiday and threw "grief" in the search bar. I found loads of podcasts, but I still felt like "Nothing really is relating to me". I wasn't hearing a young person talking about their grief in the here and now. I needed to hear someone who was going through it, like I was.
BINGO. I turned to my partner and said "Fuck it, I'm gonna make a podcast about grief"
We came back and got the ball rolling. The name came pretty easy, The Grief Gang. Because we're all part of a gang that no one wants to be part of.
I created the Instagram account and the support came flooding in, I was overwhelmed.
From then till now, it's been a journey. A bloody fantastic journey. I've been able to share my own experiences on the page and podcast and NOT feel like an alien, with people responding "YEP, I think that too!" or "OMG, I thought I was the only one who felt like that?!"...I'd finally found my people.
From then till now, I have met some of the most inspiring people, willingly sharing their stories with me and the podcast, all in hope of normalising the topic of conversation that is grief. It has taken off more than I ever imagined and I am forever grateful for the opportunities that have come my way (Such as being asked to write for The Loss Project!)
It doesn't just end with Grief Gang. Earlier this summer, amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, the online grief community took a long hard look at itself to see what it could do better. I, myself, being a mixed raced woman, saw that there really is a lack of representation in this community. That I and my peers in this space need to do better. Time to shake the table.
So, myself and the two AMAZING fellas at TNN charity, who I have come to love like my brothers, created a Black and Brown only virtual GOODGRIEF meeting. TNN hold weekly meetings anyway, but they saw that they could do better, so they did. Asking myself and Georgia Wicky (Creator of Other Podcast) to be their hosts for these meetings, where we have full control. The meetings have been phenomenal and incredibly moving, many stating "They have been waiting for something like this". It truly is our safe space.
Touching on Safe Space, another project blossomed. I've been busy haven't I?
The Grief Safe Space was born. TGSS is a grief based Instagram account sharing solely Black and Brown voices and stories of their grief. It's a space where we also amplify and uplift the voices and WORK of the many Black and Brown people doing fantastic things in the space, but not getting the recognition they deserve.
I reached out to 5 fantastic ladies that I had already created connections with and asked would they like to be a part of this, thankfully they all said yes, because I would be lost without them. They ALL make TGSS what it is. Georgia (@georgiawicky) and her ever perfectionist ways, always taking care of admin! Shahnaz,(@grieftips) our IG QUEEEEEN, who has taught us all so much. Shuma(@spokengrief), with her beautiful writing. Rebecca,(@grievingdaughter) with her utterly gorgeous digital drawings, and Kyra (@griefpad) our girl who loves a bit of research! This is my thanks to all of them.
So yeah, it's been a busy old year so to speak! But I wouldn't change it for anything.
For those reading who are grieving, we are here and we are here to support you. We've been waiting for you. There is so much to learn about you and your grief. Things that you may never of thought of. But it's all good, I promise. I never break a promise...
Amber Jeffrey/ The Grief Gang
Listen here or at your favourite podcast platform https://anchor.fm/amber-jeffrey
With a special thanks to Amber for her brilliant work, and her powerful writing. Please do check out her work.