Ominous and powerful, grief comes to us unplanned and often unwelcomed. Not only is it sadness, but it is mixed with disbelief, anger, and ambivalence. And it was no different for me recently. A friend of mine had been sick for many years, hiding his illness (until recently) to leave him and his wife to cope alone. This guy was a great man. A psychologist, a caring husband, and a leader in his faith community. A gentle giant with nothing but kindness in his heart.
I received an email from his sister announcing his passing and inlcuding information about his memorial. I actually never knew he was sick. In fact, I first thought it was about his father. Then I re-read the email and my jaw just dropped. I couldn't believe it. I looked at my husband and told him the news. He was shocked. I was flooded with memories, confusion about what was happening and an overall feeling that this couldn't be true.
And that is where Facebook entered the picture. I logged on and went to his profile. Scanning the wall, looking for clues as to what was going on. There were recent posts in the last couple of months from friends, sending loving thoughts and prayers. He stopped posting several months ago. Then, at the beginning of the wall was an outpouring of thoughts, prayers, emotions, and memories from friends and family to my dear friend. His facebook page was turning into a memorial. Friends started putting pieces of the story together to make sense of this surprised tragedy. Together, online, we grieved.
I couldn't go to the memorial. It would have been too far for me. I imagined all my friends together supporting each other. Yet, I still had a way to connect, to send condolensces and to share with others that knew my friend. Facebook became a memorial for people to engage and share.
I don't know how often his family check the Facebook page, but my hope is that it provides some comfort because it is clear that he was loved.
As a therapist, I know about grief and yet how I grieve has changed over the years. And now that I use technology so much more than ever before, I know that technology has gotten a bad rap for leaving us feeling more alone and disconnected. However, sometimes, it helps. Sometimes technology and psychology merge and healing happens. I was given an opportunity to be with others, virtually, and grieve. That was a gift. I didn't feel alone, I felt comfort.
If you are grieving and it feels overwhelming, find someone to talk to. If it feels like you can't function in your life, it's ok to get professional help.