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Cherry, 26, escaped an abusive marriage and lost her dad. Untangle’s online bereavement groups helped her to face her grief, feel less alone, and start to heal.

I was born in China and grew up in Australia. In 2015 I moved to the US to be with my husband. The marriage became abusive and took a long time to get out of. Then, just a few months after it ended, my father passed away on December 26th 2019. My dad was 54 and it was very sudden. We were still talking and texting the day before, and the next day he just wasn’t there anymore. He was one of the most important people in my life and I was devastated. Those two things happening so close together were very difficult to process. I only had a few months to grieve for my relationship before my dad passed away. I felt numb. Another part of my grief was changing countries. I left a lot of friendships and my community behind in the US. I’m now in the UK living with my boyfriend, and because of Covid-19 it has been difficult to build my own connections here.

Acknowledging grief

I started attending Untangle’s online grief support sessions in June 2020, along with other kinds of support groups. It’s definitely helped me to not feel so alone, especially now we’re so isolated. One of the reasons I joined was to meet others who shared the same feelings. Having this space is helping me learn to understand myself and my emotions. By talking about my experiences and hearing what others have been through, I’ve been able to fully acknowledge my grief – although sometimes I still feel like I’m in a dream.

Allowing yourself to feel

The first few months after my dad died it felt like I was in shock – it was very difficult to accept. Acceptance is a key step in the healing process and it takes time. The online support groups provide a safe space allowing me to feel sad, bad and angry, and to accept that this has happened to me. A good tip I got from the group is writing in a diary or journal about how you feel. One person said that after his wife passed away he would write down things he would have wanted to tell her that day – I think that’s a lovely gesture. Setting up a shrine with photos or objects that remind you of the person you’ve lost is also a nice way to immerse yourself in your memories and allow yourself to feel.

Having your voice heard

I like that the online groups are small and compact – it’s cosier and everyone has the ability to share. We all introduce ourselves briefly, then dive into talking about our experiences when we feel like it. I really like that each one of us has our turn to share and have our own voice heard. You can share as much or as little as you want to. If you don’t want to talk you are always welcome to listen and join when you are ready. You can turn off your camera if it helps you feel less overwhelmed and more in control.

A healthy and supportive online environment

It can be very scary to look at grief. But when you are in a healthy and supportive environment with other people who are also grieving, it is a lot easier. You don’t feel so alone and it makes you feel more capable of opening up to yourself and identifying your emotions. A couple of months ago I didn’t know that there were grief support groups out there. Having them online is great because people can access these resources from anywhere. And when you are grieving you might prefer to deal with the healing in the comfort of your own home, rather than catching the bus or train on a rainy day.

I am still grieving every day. There are days when sadness and tears find me out of the blue, and also days when I feel excited to start new adventures in my life.

Cherry Xu currently works as a freelance artist painting pet portraits. To find out more about Untangle’s free, moderated online grief community, click here.

Image – Cherry with her Dad, Lionel, and their family in 2000. © Private