Everyone grieves differently – and if you've spent any time on TikTok in recent days, you might have noticed some unexpected, unusual methods.
Some people – to the tune of millions of likes – are confessing or sharing stories with their dead loved ones directly on social media. In one such video, two sisters laugh through telling their mom what's happened since she died. "We didn't know that we had to file your taxes," one says, stifling a laugh before later breaking into fits of laughter. Another video features two pals keeping their deceased best friend up-to-date on the latest gossip – including Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
What these videos have in common: smiles instead of frowns. Joy instead of heartbreaking pain. The spilling of secrets instead of spilling of tears.
Grief experts welcome this type of public healing, for both the bereaved and those watching who may learn something in the process. "What I love about it so much is that it normalizes grief, No. 1, but it also shows that grief is so much more than just crying and sadness and laying in your bed and not being able to get up," says Gina Moffa, licensed clinical social worker and author of "Moving On Doesn't Mean Letting Go." "It shows that the relationship continues. It shows how a relationship continues, it shows that it doesn't all have to be sadness and upset and despair."
TikTok as grief resource? 'Fantastic'
Grief is not one-size-fits-all.
It's "a lifelong process," says Jessica MacNair, licensed professional counselor. "It's not prescriptive, it's not, five stages in order, you move through these, and then you reach the end. It's ongoing, it comes up in varying times. And, in fact, I mean, that's probably one of the main reasons that people come back to therapy."
Any avenue people can discover to work through their grief – that doesn't involve harming others or themselves – is a good idea. Even on social media.
"If somebody finds something that is effective for them, and it helps them feel better, I love that for them," MacNair adds. "And if people can come on TikTok and see something that worked for somebody else and try that for themselves, that's fantastic."
'Wanted to share my experience'
Of course, people also grieve (slightly) more traditionally on TikTok. Devon Faith Hages, for example, shared a more melancholy video earlier this year where she said she sends messages to her dead best friend's cell phone. She sends him a text or Snapchat a few times a year after he visits her in dreams.
"Every time I dream of him, it's very vivid. It's very raw. It's very painful," says the 24-year-old foster care worker. "And they're unlike other dreams that I've had before because he and I actually maintain conversations. And I can feel him touching me and we hug in our dreams."
Her grief emboldens her to reach out: "When I first wake up from these dreams, the grief derails me for my entire day, because they're so real. So pretty much immediately after I wake up, and I'm just sitting in this grief and this pain, I text him."
Why turn to social media to tell her story? She saw others on TikTok posting about their loved ones who died, "texting them or leaving them a voicemail or getting like a random phone call from a phone number of a dead person, of someone that they loved. So I hopped on that and wanted to share my experience."
'Just because we laugh doesn't mean we don't miss someone'
No matter how people are grieving on TikTok, one thing is clear, according to Moffa: "People die but relationships don't."
She hopes this TikTok trend continues because each generation must learn to not run away in fear of loss; we can approach grief in our own ways, including through humor.
"Just because we laugh doesn't mean we don't miss someone," she says. "Because we laugh doesn't mean that we're not grieving still."
Keep in mind that grief will manifest in different ways than you imagine over time – often unpredictably so.
"Grief will come when it comes," Moffa says. "And that may mean that you have grief, two years later, that comes up that feels like it's the first time that you're grieving, or some memory will come up. And it will be something that you have to grieve all over again."
Maybe it will involve laughter. Maybe tears. Either way, it keeps a loved one's memory alive.
And maybe that's all that matters, anyway.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grief experts praise TikTok joke sharing with dead loved ones