“We’re all grieving, but none of us are talking about it,” said Shohana Sharmin, U of T alum and host of the podcast Finders Grievers, which shares personal accounts of grief and loss.

Sharmin talked to The Varsity about the isolating nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing reactions from people worldwide. Between the undulating waves of lockdown restrictions and the physical distancing measures we have been taking every day, many of us have waning hope for a return to normalcy. 

This deep loneliness and confusion often lies at the core of grief. It’s overwhelming: the sinking feeling that perhaps we’ll never truly move past this moment, the realization that we could never have the right words to explain our experiences to one another. Our grief is a universal burden we can choose to share with others; by sharing it, we can learn to shoulder it. 

Finders Grievers uses this concept to create a space for individuals to share their stories about loved ones’ deaths. Each episode promises a heart-wrenching story of loss — but these stories are also comforting, which intertwines these experiences of grief. 

The new kind of grief 

Before Finders Grievers, Sharmin — whose mother died of lung cancer in 2017 — had channeled her grief into her creative projects, including the critically acclaimed dark sketch comedy Dead Parents Society

However, as COVID-19 hit and the world entered a state of recurring lockdowns, Sharmin found herself “grieving the loss of the normal that [she] knew.” She then realized that she could observe “how different people [were] reacting to this new kind of grief.”

“It was painful, but it was also kind of fascinating. It was very eye-opening for me,” described Sharmin. 

This discovery spurred her exploration of the grieving process and eventually led to the creation of Finders Grievers, which was released in May. The podcast shares deeply personal and honest accounts of grief and captures the imperfection and ‘humanness’ of the grieving process. In every episode, listeners witness stories of harrowing loss while discovering their own emotions. Sharmin’s podcast stresses the power in finding unity in grief by uniting listeners with shared experiences. 

Grief is unique and that’s okay

Finders Grievers shares the experiences of several writers, actors, and comedians, and their unique grieving journeys. Sharmin highlights how “no experience is exactly the same”; each individual witnesses loss under different circumstances, and therefore often holds a wildly different perspective of grief from others. 

“There’s no prescription. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. This is always my thing. Do what you need to survive. That has always been my motto with grieving,” shares Sharmin. 

Grieving can be a transformative process and it often has both positive and negative aspects. There is a great deal of shame and stigma around discussing grief, so oftentimes those who are experiencing loss can’t allow themselves to fully process their emotions. Instead, they choose to avoid acknowledging it. 

Unfortunately, grief doesn’t leave once a person turns away from it; our pain manifests and becomes a deeper part of us. Sharmin believes that healing and addressing the toxic behaviours or thought patterns we’ve previously adopted requires “creating space to learn and unlearn.”

“A happy-ish podcast about sad things”

For Sharmin, Finders Grievers is a space for healing and acceptance. She shared, “You’ll be happy some days; you’ll be sad some days. Both are allowed. Both are okay. So just accept both, embrace both and move forward. Walk holding both.”

As we learn to deal with how COVID-19 is affecting us mentally, resources with honest discussion surrounding our losses may help bridge the socially distanced gap between us all. For healing to occur, Sharmin advised, “You really have to honour the happy and the sad.” Finders Grievers gives listeners a space to do just that.