Story by Francesca Cotta | Art by Haasini Casukhela
Coping with grief
Losing a loved one is a painful experience. Whether they were young or old, whether their death was expected or sudden, the loss leaves us sad and distressed. These feelings are a natural part of grieving as we attempt to adjust to life in the absence of our loved one.
Grieving can involve certain stages – denial, anger, regret and depression. It is common for people to withdraw from social interactions because they might find that others do not really understand what they are going through, or they might find it difficult to talk about how they are managing.
While there is no correct way to grieve, it is important to seek support from a trusted friend, relative or therapist, especially if you feel unable to focus on things that are important to you even after several months.
The emergence of grief tech
This comic was inspired by a conversation with my father who recently has taken a keen interest in the revolutionary applications of AI especially with the emergence of ‘grief tech’ – digital tools, often powered by AI. The tools, intended to help people find comfort and closure over the loss of a loved one, do so by creating simulations of them that people can interact with.
The TV show Black Mirror addresses this topic in an episode titled “Be Right Back”, where a woman learns that she can communicate with an AI version of her deceased partner.
Companies like ‘HereAfter AI’ rely on consensually pre-recorded life stories, uploaded photos and videos that create a “life story avatar” you can interact with after the demise of a loved one. ‘You, Only Virtual’ is an app that creates the essence of the relationship between you and your loved one by building a ‘Versona’, complete with text messages, voice recordings and video chats.
The apps raise important questions pertaining to their effectiveness in helping people cope with loss, and the ethics involved in conjuring a digital “version” of the deceased person if done without their prior consent.
The Little Prince
In “Goodbye GPLO”, Rayan’s favourite book is The Little Prince. It is a fable about a stranded pilot’s encounter in the desert with a strange boy he refers to as ‘the little prince’. The boy tells him stories of the planet he comes from – the baobabs he regularly weeds out, and the vain rose he loves dearly. He speaks of the grown-ups he meets while visiting various asteroids and how they are trapped by the limiting beliefs that guide their actions. Finally, he talks about his time on Earth, where he befriends a fox who teaches him important lessons about friendship.
The fox and the airplane that Hans encounters in the VR experience pays homage to the book’s importance in his friend’s life. The Little Prince also features the theme of loss in gentle yet profound ways – another reason why its presence in this comic felt fitting.