Pinning hope on grief

Pinterest helps everyone from the grieving mother to people dealing the cancer.

Mar 3, 2020, 7:48 am*


Lauren Rae Orsini 

Lauren Rae Orsini

When Kelly Tagliaferri’s fourth pregnancy resulted in a stillborn daughter, Elise, the Maryland mom was heartbroken.

“It can happen to anyone and it truly is devastating,” she told the Daily Dot.  “It is something that needs to be talked about so that when it does happen, it isn’t isolating on top of being painful.”

Tagliaferri, who introduces herself as a mother of five—“four with feet, one with wings”—said she thinks part of Elise’s purpose in life was to show her mother how important it is to help others. To assuage her sorrows and educate others about stillbirth, she dedicated a Pinterest board to Elise:

“She may not be here on earth with us, but she is a daily part of my life and I spend as much time on her as I do my other children. Naturally, I want to help anyone navigating this devastating road to find compassion and comfort.”

Pinterest isn’t just a space for sharing other people’s photos. It’s also a place to heal.

Thanks to the Internet, grief and illness no longer needs to be suffered in silence. We’ve documented many examples of ailing users who went online to ease the pain, from Shane Burcaw’s Tumblr about life with spinal muscular atrophy to Susannah Breslin’s public breast cancer announcement.

Now, pinners are discovering that they can use the image-sharing board to visually show their stories.

Xeni Jardin is one user who has embraced Pinterest to document her battle with breast cancer. A prominent blogger for Boing Boing, Jardin’s chronological pinboard collects snapshots of her face during chemo and her supporters as they accompany her.

“This board makes me cry, tears of sadness of the disease/treatment and tears of joy of your strength,” commented Tristin Lehmann.

Jennifer Stauss Windrum is another user who pins about cancer. But in Windrum’s case, it’s her mom who fell sick with lung cancer, despite never having smoked a cigarette a day in her life.

Now, Windrum updates a “politically incorrect” advocacy pinboard, WTF? for Lung Cancer—Where’s the Funding for Lung Cancer?—to highlight that anyone can get lung cancer, so it should be as well funded as other types of cancer.

She told the Daily Dot that:

“To enable others to become great advocates for a cause, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to access and share content. With the boards, I can curate a lot of content from my blog and other resources and neatly place it in one spot. Pinterest has not only helped advance our advocacy efforts, but also has introduced us to a new set of advocates as well.”

Whether for grief, illness, or advocacy, there’s a Pinterest board for nearly every cause.

We discovered most of these boards through Allison Tyler, the creator of WTF, Pinterest? and a chronic illness sufferer. Tyler said she saves illness and grief pinboards for reference.

“Illness blogs and illness Pinterest boards reinforce how lucky I am,” she told us. “There is always someone who suffers more than we do. I have a lot to be thankful for and when I need bit of a boost, looking at their stuff and seeing how strong others are gives me the kick in the butt I need.”

This shared experience makes up the backbone of grief and illness pinning. It’s not self promotion, it’s self revelation. In Tagliaferri’s case, her board about Elise is important because her loss is part of what makes her herself.

“Elise is just another part of my life,” she said. “If you want to know about me, you can’t help but know about her.”

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*First Published: Mar 15, 2012, 9:30 am