Logging On and Letting it Out: Grieving Online

Whether it's your own personal life or the latest celebrity gossip, it's no secret that everyone likes to talk.

The advent of the Internet -- along with blogs, instant messenger programs and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace -- has made doing just that even easier.

Now topics and issues many people have traditionally preferred to keep private -- such as death -- have increasingly become the focal point of online forums, blogs and message boards.

Following ABC News' report on the murder-suicide of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and 7-year-old son, the site's online comment boards were flooded by readers writing in and sharing their reactions to the story.

As of press time, there were 1,152 comments for that story alone. Many readers offered prayers and condolences, while others voiced outrage over the violent nature of the crime. Benoit reportedly strangled and suffocated his wife and son before hanging himself.

One online commenter wrote: "What a horrible way to die. This man had some serious problems. And hanging him self [sic] that is one terrible way to die. My heart goes out to her family, and his. This was totally senseless. But I guess he MIGHT have been very depressed, and thought this was the only way to solve it. His family and hers are in my prayers. May God wrap his loving arms around all of you in this time of your sadness."

Another expressed anger toward World Wrestling Entertainment for its tribute to Benoit: "WWE should be ashamed for praising a murderer last night."

It is no surprise that people have a lot to say about an event like this one, but why do those suffering from grief feel compelled to share their feelings with everyone in cyberspace?

Online Memorials, Web Sites for the Dead

Believe it or not, grieving online is more common than you may think.

There is a market for Web sites that will create memorial pages -- at a nominal fee -- to remember and honor the deceased. These sites also offer online guest books in which users can sign their names and offer condolences. Some even allow you to light a virtual candle for the deceased.

Legacy.com, for example, posts obituaries online that also appear in 60 percent of newspapers nationwide. Users can also leave audio messages for their loved ones, and slideshows of photos can be created.

A similar Web site, muchloved.com, is based in the United Kingdom and allows customers to create a page and decide if they want it to be public -- and accessible to everyone -- or private and accessible only to invitees. Although it has only been online for a few months, owner Jonathan Davis said he has around 25 new requests each day.

Facebook, the social networking site that adds 100,000 new users every day, has seen a flourishing of memorial groups too.

"There are millions of groups on the site, so it's really hard to know which ones are dedicated to a loved one or a friend, but certainly we encourage these groups to be set up," said Brandee Barker, director of corporate communications at Facebook.

"Individuals make the choices on how they mourn the loss of someone and that takes a variety of forms depending on the person."

Performing a simple search on Facebook will show that there are already more than 500 groups dedicated to Benoit and his family. While some may have been pre-existing fan sites, the majority of them were made in response to the murder-suicide.

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