On the second night of September, YouTuber Claire Wineland succumbed to cystic fibrosis at age 21. Her death sparked an outpouring of grief from her fellow YouTubers and from fans who followed her battle with the genetic lung disease. Claire inspired many with her story and her courage – and more than that, she helped reshape the way teenagers deal with death.
Breaking the Taboo of Talking About Death
In many parts of the world, where people don’t usually talk about mortality, social media is becoming many young people’s first introduction to contemplating both the reality and the implications of death. In one of her Youtube videos, Wineland shared with 261,000 followers that she had near-death experiences before, thus she already accepted that she was going to die at a young age. She shared that she always lived in the moment and made the most of life, especially given the disease she battled. Her vlogs somehow helped teenagers gain an insight into living with — and coming to terms with — a terminal illness.
But, Parents Still Need to Step in
For Dr. Jon Goldin, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, vlogs like Claire’s can be a useful tool to start a conversation about death, but parents still need to step in. Parents must be aware that this kind of content is out there so that they can have an open conversation with their teens and validate their adolescents’ response. Dr. Goldin advised parents to reassure their teenagers that feeling sad or grieving is a natural human response to death.
Plus, when it comes to adolescent grief, it is best that teenagers understand they can grieve in their own way, at their own pace, as advised by counselors at the Hospice of the Calumet Area.
Nevertheless, Claire made a huge impact on the lives of millions of people around the world, especially on many teenagers battling with their own illnesses. She once told her viewers that when she was growing up, she didn’t have any role models who were sick yet were doing great things with their lives. She went on to become that role model for others.