Reaching out for emotional support to whoever is willing to listen is a natural response when tragedy bares its ugly head. As the landscape of how we communicate with each other shifts towards online interaction, it should be no surprise that more and more people seek counsel for their grief online. This wave of people finding comfort online is evidenced by the many grief forums and chat rooms that have emerged within the last ten years. Facebook is another online platform which is a top destination for people to find solace in their pain. While many people end up at grief forums and Facebook to find help, these platforms are very different from each other. Just because one platform has helped people reconcile their sadness does not mean it is the perfect fit for everybody.
A Look at Grief Forums
Grief forums such as Web Healing and The Light Beyond are active communities of people who joined the community because they are dealing with the heavy burden of grief, or they are supporting others who are dealing with grief. Anyone can make a profile and begin posting on these forums. All forums are broken down into categories based on topics in order to foster more focused discussions on the specific topics, as well as helping members navigate the forum better. The 5 most common categories include the loss of a parent, child, spouse/partner, pet, and loss to suicide.
What is even more fascinating is the specificity of some of these forums. For example, Mom’s Halo is a support forum for people who have lost their mother. Parents of Murdered Children is another explicitly specific forum. All forums are moderated by someone to ensure no abusive language occurs and to maintain the quality of the forums’ content. These safeguards create a safe and supportive place for people to reveal what they are going through without fear of judgment that comes with confiding in family and friends. This can be done anonymously, or you can use your actual name. Confiding with someone close to you is important in overcoming sorrow and healing, however, many people feel more comfortable cathartically expressing themselves to people(s) who are not in their circle of friends and family. Normally this anonymity is reserved for people who can afford therapy sessions with a therapist, but with the advent of the internet, more and more people are going online to seek support and advice.
After spending some time in any populated grief forum, it is very apparent that many people are very active in engaging with others on the forum. Most forums show how many comments a member has posted on the forum. This feature reveals that many people on these forums have hundreds, if not thousands of comments which indicates that many people choose to stay on these forums to offer support and talk with other people going through similar tragedy. While most of the people on forums are not licensed therapists, they have been through a similar tragedy and can offer helpful support. Since virtually everybody on these forums are complete strangers, the advice comes from an unbiased perspective.
Dealing with Grief on Facebook
Social media has made it possible to contact your entire network of friends and family with a single click. With Facebook, this accessibility is accompanied by an audience consisting of family and friends. The social nature of Facebook is what makes it so appealing. Everybody grieves in their own way. Everybody responds differently to difficult situations as well. Some people work through grief by communicating with others and through social contact, while other people may prefer some isolation to be alone with their thoughts and emotions. There really is no one size fits all solution for grief. In fact, a whole branch of psychology is dedicated to unraveling the mechanisms that form the emotion of grief. This should illustrate just how complex of an emotion it is.
An aspect that stands out with Facebook is the connectivity it brings to the table. Whenever a tragedy strikes, people will almost always band together on social media. This comes in many forms, such as when an unexpected death strikes a small town and the whole community bands together online. This unifying force can also be seen on the national level. When the musician Prince died in 2016 from a drug overdose, it stirred an outcry for nationwide drug rehabilitation reform. Shedding the public spotlight on this controversial subject may not have been possible without the overflow of national attention using Facebook and other social media platforms as the catalyst.
Grieving in the Age of Social Media goes into more depth about the positives and negatives of sharing your grievances online.
Some people are suited better for one medium of communication rather than another. Ultimately, where you choose to grieve is less important than how you grieve. If you ever find yourself overshadowed by grief never be afraid to talk to a therapist. Don’t let the feeling or embarrassment from others keep you from seeking help and recovering.
Sarah Giavanio works at Safe Passage Urns, a company dedicated to providing the best information for funeral planning and selling one-of-a-kind cremation urns to memorialize a loved one. Our company is very mindful of the environmental impact we invoke which is why starting in September of 2018 we will be planting a tree for every single urn sold, to help offset our environmental impact.