I was halfway done through my graduate studies when the COVID quarantine lockdown started in Toronto, Canada. There was no studio access for me to keep doing my art practice, my research became stagnant. School moved online and asked us to continue our studies without providing resources.

Everyday I read news about the rising death toll from the virus and police brutality across the globe. I signed onto classes to hear nothing about it. I went through my thesis presentation over and over. I asked myself, “what am I doing?”

The world was grieving, yet we were denied spaces to grieve. People couldn’t hold physical funerals for their loved ones, our capitalistic society forced us to kept working like cogs in a machine during a pandemic, and the justice system refused to acknowledge the homicides cops committed against black people.

So people turned to the digital.

Communities got together, funerals and vigils were held online. People build virtual memorials and gave their obituaries on the internet.

Those aren’t exactly new, but with the way we are limited physically, these avenues of grief became more prominent in the pandemic.

Humanity will always find new ways to grieve. We tend to rely on technology to solve our problems. With the digital at our disposals, how do we grieve with it? How does it affect the way we grieve? Is it possible that we would start grieving the digital itself?

I, too, once turned to the digital to grieve.

The morning my father passed away, I was getting ready to visit him at the hospital. His driver was waiting for me at the door. My aunt walked in and hugged me, she said, “Papa passed away this morning.” I didn’t cry, I pulled out my phone and dialed a few numbers, I tried to reach out to some of my closest friends to no avail—it was 7 AM on a Friday. With no proper space to grieve, I tapped on a popular social media app at the time, I updated a status, “why did you leave me?”

Who was I talking to? Myself? My father? Was it supposed to be some cryptic message to people who see my social media profile? Was I talking to the digital void hoping someone somewhere would see my sad little grief? Even now, I’m still not sure why I turned to the digital that day but it gave me the comfort I needed to get through the rest of the day.

So, what is it with the digital and human grief? How does one affect another? What do we need to be aware of going forward with it?

I want to ask. I want to know.