I clean forgotten graves – trolls call me 'disrespectful' but it's helped me heal from my divorce

I clean forgotten graves – trolls call me 'disrespectful' but it's helped me heal from my divorce


EVERYONE deals with change differently – but this Virginia woman found solace and purpose at the cemetery.

Alicia Williams, 42, cleans graves in her free time and she labels it as a form of therapy.

Talking exclusively to The Sun, Williams shared that, after a particularly difficult divorce, she packed up her things and moved back into her mom's house with her four kids.

However, the divorce meant that her four kids would spend major holidays and summer vacations with their dad in Florida, while she stayed back in Virginia.

"Because I’ve been with them since birth, I’ve been at home with them since they were born, it was a painful adjustment," she admitted.

"It was hard when they weren’t there and like most moms, I got lost in motherhood. I was in a bad place mentally."

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But instead of wallowing in her loneliness, she started watching videos of a gravestone repairman doing his job.

"I was so mesmerized by it," she explained.

"I then did a lot of research and discovered it was really hard to do. I then focused on cleaning them since it was easier."


Her hobby first began when she cleaned and scrubbed gravestones of late family members, but when she felt like she needed to do more, she called her local cemeteries who allowed her to also work on the ones on their property.

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She revealed: "Gravestone cleaning called to me, and when I stumbled upon it, it felt like something I had to do.

"It gave me something to look forward to every day that was not a part of motherhood or fighting with my ex. I’ve always referred to it as my therapy. It’s a metaphorical healing process.

"I would go out and scrub a stone and cuss and scream and cry and then I’d come back and it was clean. Subconsciously, it healed my soul."

I was so mesmerized by it."

In the last year, Williams has taken to social media to film the cleaning process, talk about who the person buried there is, and how they passed.

She now has over 2.7M followers on TikTok and her videos continuously go viral.


But so much more than healing, gravestone cleaning was life-saving for Williams.

"There were days when I would wake up and wanted to die," she revealed, choking back tears.

"I was never thinking about acting on it but I was willing it. If I don’t wake up in the morning, it’s okay. If someone hits my car and I don’t make it, it’s okay.

"But being in the cemetery reminded me that we are all going to end up here somewhere. Your life is worth living, no matter how short it is or what you go through it, but it’s worth it. I had to find a way to make it count.

"For the longest time, it was the only place I felt comfortable because I was so emotionally beaten down and I was so reactive to everything and I felt like everyone around me had teamed up with my ex," she explained about her bond to such a desolate place.

"And I felt safe [at the cemetery] because these people weren’t going to ask me anything. I find myself, even if I’m not cleaning, walking through the stones and I’ll talk to them and they are a part of them and I’m a part of them.

"It gives me purpose like maybe I am worth sticking around."


On a good day, Williams can scrub anywhere between 10 to 15 stones a day and will be out there for several hours. However, everything depends on how much cleaning product she has in hand.

One gallon of D2 Biological Solution, which is what Williams uses, can cost over $45.

And the cleaning process itself isn't done after half an hour of scrubbing either, it can take months.

It gives me purpose like maybe I am worth sticking around."

Because biological matter, such as dirt, can really seep into the porous stone, it can take several rounds of cleaning for it to be remotely close to what it was when it was first installed.

"I have one that it just got to the point where it’s clean, I've been working on it for three and a half years," she revealed.

"I don’t scrub them again and again but I will treat them with the process occasionally. I compare it to skincare."


When choosing what gravestones to clean, Williams revealed she tends to gravitate toward the dirtier and older ones.

Not so much because of the challenge, but because she knows those tend to be forgotten sometime.

As a rule of thumb, she only goes for gravestones that are 75 years or older as the fresher ones might still have family members caring for them.

And of course, scrubbing these stones and looking up information about the person buried there has made her grow fond of some of them.

The one she's most "protective" of is a woman who she calls Miss Lucy.

According to Williams, Lucy Burwell "was enslaved by the people whom she is buried with.

"The family that enslaved her – I don’t look at it this way – they revered her so much that they buried her in the family plot.

Subconsciously, it healed my soul."

"I look at it as them still owning her, even in death, she is still bound to these people. That's why I’m super protective of Miss Lucy."

Others she feels strongly about are a little girl who died in a fire, a man who was tragically hit by a train, and a distant cousin who died in a hunting accident.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, because the cemetery never closed down unlike parks and public spaces, Williams would take her four children along with her.

And of course, like most teenagers, they didn't comprehend what was happening at the beginning but it was the only way they could get some fresh air without being close to other people.

"We walked around, one of them was playing Pokemon Go and the others were reading," she admitted, adding that her oldest son is currently doing community service at the cemetery while one of her youngest did a science project on gravestone cleaning.

"They all tend to go but some of them like it more than others."


Of course, someone cleaning gravestones as a hobby will not go unnoticed, especially in a small town in Virginia.

In fact, some people who have seen Williams' videos have verbally attacked her, calling her out for supposedly being disrespectful and only publishing her content to get attention.

"Despite me getting some negative comments, 99 percent of the attention is positive," she admitted.

In fact, there was one instance when a police officer approached her at the cemetery, much to her shock.

"I thought I was about to get arrested but he just thanked me for what I was doing," she explained before revealing that, one time, she caught on video the moment a man approached her, thanked her, and even gave her $15 to buy herself dinner.

"He was really complimentary and made me cry pretty hard," she laughed during the interview. "I'll also get recognized in public and it drives my daughter insane."


But despite the fame and even the few work opportunities her hobby gave her, she's just happy that it gave her a purpose.

"I’m just really grateful that through what was the worst time of my life, I found a way to pull myself up," she added.

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"The worst time of my life turned into something really good. I’m at this point where the world is in the palm of my hands because of this, I’ve lucked into it, and it’s because I was going through hell.

"I do not believe that I would have been inspired to do this if I wasn’t in such a bad place mentally.”

If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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