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Social media: Can it help with grief?

Social media: Can it help with grief?

Religion News Service posted a piece from PBS Video exploring the role of social media in grief and death. Interviews include Carla Sofka, a professor of social work at Siena College and author of the book Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe:

Cyberspace just gives us a new place to grieve, a new place to create rituals, a new place to memorialize the death of someone you care about.

Other interviews include those impacted by the 2012 shootings in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, including Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, who lost their daughter. At her funeral, her friends came up and showed them the tributes and remembrances that had been posted online in their daughter’s memory.

Do real relationships, real emotions exist in social media? Funeral planner Jamie Sarche says no: social media “gives us the ‘idea’ of connection, but it’s anything but connection.” We are moving away from our face-to-face, physical-world relationships.

Social media was a source of prayer and support for Marcus Weaver, who was shot at Aurora but survived.

And social media was a source of reunion and comfort for Bonnie Lindberg as she was dying of a rare lung disease; the friends she re-connected with have remained part of her husband Roger’s life.

And technology is becoming another way for us to preserve our memories of loved ones, from Facebook memorial pages and YouTube tributes to QR codes on gravestones.

What do you think?

Photo: “(384-365) Candle light (6391517873)” by Sander van der Wel from Netherlands – [384/365] Candle light. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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Cynthia Katsarelis

I announced the passing of my dad 8 years ago, and my mom a couple of months ago on social media. I had asked for prayers before that. And funny animal videos before then, it was one of the few things Mom got into with dementia. I found the responses supportive and comforting. And I didn’t have to tell people over and over again about the loses. My experience was reasonably positive.

Leslie Scoopmire

I had a teacher blog and became part of the worldwide edublogger community when my father died ten years ago. One of the most beautiful things that happened is that blogging friends whom I never met posted lovely poetry and comforting words of sympathy both on my blog and on their own, even though they truly didn’t “know” me nor I them– because many of us were anonymous. Yet we knew each other in all the best ways. I still look at those posts when I especially feel a twinge of missing my dad.

Social media has only gotten bigger since then. It also allows people to check in with others more sensitively especially in the early days when a phone call might intrude. So yes, I would say that, in my experience, it helps.

Angela Hock

I’ve experienced connections through social media exchange support and encouragement in all types of human experience. Like most things, however, it can be a vehicle for good or evil and care is required as always. Though not physical, the connection is a human one –on the emotional and psychological levels.

Susan Paynter

In my grief in the months following my husband’s death I turned often enough to my friends through social media. Some of the conversations were surprisingly rich. For those in deep grief, physical social interaction can at times be a row too tough to hoe, but that doesn’t remove the need for support. Social media has its place in the grief process.

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