Online Grieving: Support a Keyboard Away

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Younger People More Comfortable Expressing Themselves Virtually

Whiteman, now a college freshman, didn't respond to attempts to reach him through Reddit and Facebook to learn whether the online posting provided any solace.

"If it's only been a year since his fiancée died, his grief is still very fresh," said bereavement counselor Pamela Gabbay, program director of the Mourning Star Center for Grieving Children in Palm Desert, Calif. "I think that he was focusing on the positive, his memories and his love for her, and never thought that people would be negative, mean and cruel."

Many younger people reared in the online age "are more comfortable expressing their most intimate feelings in a virtual fashion," Gabbay said. However, she said that dedicated sites for the bereaved tend protect them from the stinging comments of critical outsiders in more open forums like Reddit. "Typically, grieving people tend to be kind to each other because they know what it feels like to be hurting."

Whiteman's posting illustrates how the Internet has made grieving a much more public ritual, Laderman said. "There's a whole plethora of online grieving support networks and memorialization pages that are very much focused on people struggling with grief. The online virtual world has really become important."

Cyberposts can provide comfort to the grief-stricken, which is "why we're seeing more of the kinds of sites or posts where people are putting their little testimonial or memorial," Laderman said. "This is part and parcel of larger trends around death and dying in our culture that are breaking it out from purely religious institutions and authority and from the controlling hand of the funeral industry."

Ultimately,Gabbay said, online forums and discussion boards can provide healing and comfort, but virtual interactions "cannot replace face-to-face support. The Internet can't give you a hug."

Some online sites and interactive forums dedicated to grieving and loss:

http://groww.org

http://webhealing.com/forums/index.php/board,1.0.html

http://forums.grieving.com/ http://forums.psychcentral.com/forumdisplay.php?f=26

http://www.healthboards.com/boards/grief-loss/

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