Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and one woman’s unwavering dedication to early-morning interviews, we managed to hook up with Alica Forneret, all the way from the US, where she runs her website, Instagram and multiple newsletters, all aimed at helping people to not only navigate the pain of grief, but understand and ask for what they need while living through it. She has this incredibly easy and warm way of talking about bereavement that makes it feel less terrifying and insurmountable, and that’s no easy thing when you’re living with your own loss. We grabbed 30 mins with her to talk about as much as we could possibly fit in…
Emma: Hello hello! How’s everybody doing? Alica, thanks for making time for the world’s earliest interview
Alica: Lol – I did one at 5:30 a few weeks ago so this is nothing
Emma: So, we’re both big fans of what you’re doing on your Instagram account – maybe we could start things with your story, for anybody not following you already?
Alica: I started working in the grief space in a very abstract way in 2015. At the time, I was working on a print project focussed on death. About a year into the project, my Mom went into the ICU and died. After that I realized that I should turn my lens on death and grief inward, so I started writing and producing events about how to manage and process grief, just by working through my own experience
Emma: The universe really likes to just throw you in at the deep end with loss sometimes doesn’t it?
Robyn: I love that so many people use their grief to try to help other people through it. It’s a powerful thing
Emma: What was it, do you think, that made you want to help others navigate that grief? We ask ourselves this a lot, and I’m always so interested to see what the driver is for different people
Alica: The fact that I didn’t find resources that resonated with me early on. I was looking for people who talked like me, looked like me, etc. and I just wasn’t finding it. So I figured if I wasn’t finding it I might as well put something new and unique out there that might resonate with other people.
Emma: Grief and bereavement resources tend to be very serious and very white, right?
Robyn: Incredibly middle class and one-dimensional, often. Though that’s just our UK experience…
Alica: The stuff that didn’t resonate with me was the angels, the doves, the ‘recovery’ and the ‘you’ll be fine’ messaging. The Whiteness and general type of people talking about grief on the internet was a very specific demo that wasn’t like me.
Robyn: It’s really difficult when you’re looking for help and nothing feels right isn’t it? Because it doubles down on the loneliness
Emma: And when you’re young it’s triple lonely
Alica: It’s definitely why I started a line of grief greeting cards with a different spin.
Emma: The product the world needs the MOST
Robyn: Yeah, if I’d got a card I could actually relate to it would have felt like someone got it. And that’s so useful especially at the start where people actually want to talk to you about your grief.
Alica: Absolutely. I think experiencing the death of a caregiver or community member when young can feel really overwhelming when you don’t have a support system in place of people who ‘get it’’ – it’s isolating and challenging
Emma: And I think it has the power to change how you interact with the world too – I know I definitely withdrew when my Mum died
Robyn: Yes! When you were talking about introverts I was just thinking ‘Emma’
Emma: Ha ha, through and through. Actually, talking about caregivers, in your latest video you talk about the importance of asking for support, which is something that I have and continue to struggle with – has it been a journey for you and do you have any tips for somebody who doesn’t know how or doesn’t think they deserve it?
Alica: It’s definitely been a journey. In the beginning I had to learn who I could go to for what, when to ask, how to ask, what to ask for. So I have been really passionate about exploring how to help people navigate that process. Especially the part about deserving it. Maybe not EVERYONE wants to be your rock or support system, but if you can try to find the people who are willing to do it, and who believe that you deserve that care, it can be very validating and remove that pressure of feeling like you’re being a pain in the ass by grieving.
Emma: This. Exactly this. Do you have people around you who’ve been that for you?
Alica: Oh, for sure. And I go to all of them for different things.
Robyn: I’m also in this camp very much. I think your grief is so complex it needs so many different approaches.
Emma: Like a support buffet. A little of everything you want
Robyn: Did it take a long time to figure that out? Cos that’s next-level grief knowledge
Alica: No, I think I figured it out pretty quickly, though it has been something I’ve gone through ups and downs on. but I’ve had the same friends for a very long time. So I know which ones I could go to for laughs, which ones I could go to for late night talks, which ones would always text back but never want to talk on the phone, etc.
Emma: Yeah, so you had a solid base of people who could offer all the different things
Robyn: Did you miraculously make new friends and then it turned out they were bereaved. I get that a lot – unconsciously knowing someone’s in the (grief) club
Alica: Yeah, for sure, but I think what I’m realising – especially in certain communities – is that we are all grieving a lot right now. So everyone is dealing with something. And I also think I just attract people who wanna talk about deep stuff with strangers
Emma: Ha ha, I love those people. I’m that person at parties…
At this point we realised our time was up and we had to let Alica go about her day, but we cannot recommend her Instagram enough, whatever kind of loss you’re working through. If you want to feel like there is a way through this messy bit, Alica has the content to help.