TikToker draws praise after explaining how she acknowledges her disability with a yearly ‘Grief Day’

·5 min read

A TikToker is sparking a wide-spanning discussion after explaining how she celebrates her annual “Grief Day.”

Britt, a 25-year-old from Chicago, shared the concept during a recent clip, which has since drawn tens of thousands of views. In the video, she broke down a yearly tradition — one she’s been celebrating since she was a teenager when an accident caused her to develop a chronic pain condition. 

To acknowledge that anniversary, Britt spends the day committing several acts of self-care. She dresses up, travels somewhere beautiful, dances on her rooftop or treats herself to a dessert at the end of the day.

As Britt explained in the clip, her Grief Day is a chance for self-reflection. Speaking to In The Know, she elaborated on why that opportunity is so crucial. 

“I think Grief Day allows me to pay attention to many of the thoughts or feelings that I might be pushing down on regular days, not letting myself think too much about the ways in which my life or my body or my plans have changed,” Britt told In The Know. “On Grief Day, I give myself the space to really think about those things and to appreciate my body for getting me through all of that.”

Britt told In The Know that she first started celebrating Grief Day on the first anniversary of her accident. 

In her TikTok, she called that period “undoubtedly the worst year” of her life. The 25-year-old — who also has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a group of genetic conditions that affect the body’s connective tissues — developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a chronic pain condition that often affects a person’s arms or legs. 

As a result, Britt had to take a year off before starting college. After seeing her friends celebrate their life milestones, she decided she needed a way to process what was going on in her life.

“My friends were all celebrating finishing their first years of college or their new internships,” she said. “And it was a small way to acknowledge that, while I didn’t get to do any of those things, I went through a lot and just surviving that was an accomplishment.”

At first, Britt wasn’t sure what to call the anniversary. She originally saw it as a “Painful Day.” As time went on, “Grief Day” started to mean more.

“Grief Day encapsulated the mourning I needed to let myself feel, but it also captured the opportunity to celebrate that grief and the beautiful things that grew from it — my passion for advocacy, the community I have found and the person I am now,” she told In The Know.

Britt’s Grief Days come loaded with complex emotions and strong memories. One year, she watched the sunrise over Lake Michigan. Last year, during the pandemic, she spent the day watching a series of vlogs she made just after her accident.

The idea drew all kinds of praise on TikTok. Countless stories, support and thanks filled Britt’s comment section.

“I don’t remember the exact day of my spinal cord injury, but it was around now,” one user wrote. “This video really spoke to me.”

“I haven’t heard of this concept before, but I want to try something like it,” another added.

As some users noted, people with spinal cord injuries will sometimes celebrate a similar concept, called a “life day.” The anniversary, also typically celebrated around the time of an accident or traumatic experience, can serve as a chance for reflection, self care, processing, grieving and more. 

Of course, this process can play out differently for people who are born with a disability, compared to those who acquire one later in life. For example, research has shown that people with spinal cord injuries tend to report increasing levels of life satisfaction as they get further from the date of their injury. 

Meanwhile, some writers with disabilities have pointed out that this dynamic doesn’t exist in the same way for people who are born with a disability. As Tom Shakespeare wrote for the BBC in 2014, part of this may have to do with the fact that “people born with an impairment have nothing to which they can compare their current existence.”

“Someone lacking hearing or sight has never experienced music or birdsong, visual art or a sublime landscape,” Shakespeare added. “Someone like me, born with restricted growth, has always been that way.”

This may partly explain why so many TikTokers had never heard of Britt’s “Grief Day” concept. The TikToker, who has been posting about EDS and CRPS since early in the pandemic, said she was surprised by how much her idea seemed to resonate.

“I was surprised,” she said, “but it made me really happy to see this tradition of mine becoming a useful framework for others. I hope it will encourage more people to make room for those big feelings — and to assure them that it’s OK to mourn, or to celebrate, or to have really mixed emotions around those days. There’s no wrong way to do it.”

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If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s interview with disability activist Aubrie Lee.

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