By Ken Doka —

When we are grieving one needs all the support we can get.  One needs to use every tool, every resource that works.  Grief can be a difficult battle.  One must use every weapon he or she can muster.

For some people, computers and the Internet are not helpful.  They may feel intimidated navigating a computer or have never sought to purchase a computer or sign up with an Internet server.

Yet others may find additional resources on the Internet to assist in their struggle with grief.  For those who do, it is important to be aware of both the types of resources that are on the Internet as well as potential dangers and limitations.

While there are a great variety of services offered through the Internet, three seem to be key for persons struggling with grief – information, support, and memorialization.

Yet in each case, just like any other set of services, one needs to be a careful consumer.

First, the Internet is a great source of information.  That is a great gift.  Information is critical in grief since it allows one to understand his or her reactions.  One of the most common questions I am asked in my counseling and speaking is a variation of the question “Am I going crazy?”  As one reads the work of professionals or hears the voices and stories of persons struggling with loss, one often realizes that his or her reactions are normal responses to the very abnormal, new reality that loss brings.  Moreover, information also offers choices.  One may learn from the stories or advice of others how to deal with one’s own struggles.

There is a great range of information available – from professional articles, to inspirational stories, to self-help material.  Yet information on the Internet is like any other information, be it in books, pamphlets, radio or television.  Some of it is good; other information may not be helpful or even may be dangerous.  As one reads it is important to assess the source and carefully consider whether this advice really is in line with one’s own circumstances, beliefs, or comfort.  Talk about it with trusted confidants.

Second, the Internet also offers support and services.  Through the Internet, one could locate local and national self-help groups, counselors, and retreats.  There are even online self-help groups and counseling.  This can be of great value, especially in areas where groups may not be available or one has in not mobile.

Yet here, too, take care.  In periods of grief, one can be vulnerable.  Unfortunately there are those that prey on vulnerable individuals.  I once had a con-woman come to a support group, looking for prospects, claiming to be a grieving widow.  Fortunately her movements were now being tracked by local law enforcement. The Internet is largely unregulated, and one has no ability to assess the appearance and manner of a person when that person is not physically present.

Finally, the Internet can be a source for memorialization.  Every person likes to leave a legacy, a reminder that there life counted, a place to visit and remember.  That is one value of cemeteries.  However, in a mobile society, cemeteries may no longer have that same role.  Cyberspace can.  It can be a place where one can leave tributes and condolences, share memories, and validate life.  This, too, can be one more gift of a technological age.

Originally published in Hospice Foundation of America’s Journeys newsletter, copyright 2008 . Reprinted with permission. To subscribe to Journeys, visit www.hospicefoundation.org or call 1-800-854-3402.

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Ken Doka

Ken Doka

Dr. Kenneth J. Doka is a Professor of Gerontology at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle and Senior Consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America. A prolific author, Dr. Doka’s books include Counseling Individuals with Life-Threatening Illness; Living with Grief: Children and Adolescents, Living with Grief: Before and After Death, Death, Dying and Bereavement: Major Themes in Health and Social Welfare (a 4 Volume edited work), Pain Management at the End-of-Life: Bridging the Gap between Knowledge and Practice, Living with Grief: Ethical Dilemmas at the End of Life, Living with Grief: Alzheimer’s Disease, Living with Grief: Coping with Public Tragedy; Men Don’t Cry, Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes of Grief; Living with Grief: Loss in Later Life, Disenfranchised Grief: Recognizing Hidden Sorrow: Living with Life Threatening Illness; Children Mourning, Mourning Children; Death and Spirituality; Living with Grief: After Sudden Loss; Living with Grief: When Illness is Prolonged; Living with Grief: Who We Are, How We Grieve; Living with Grief: At Work, School and Worship; Living with Grief: Children, Adolescents and Loss; Caregiving and Loss: Family Needs, Professional Responses; AIDS, Fear and Society; Aging and Developmental Disabilities; and Disenfranchised Grief: New Directions, Challenges, and Strategies for Practice. In addition to these books, he has published over 100 articles and book chapters. Dr. Doka is editor of both Omega: The Journal of Death and Dying and Journeys: A Newsletter for the Bereaved. Dr. Doka was elected President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling in 1993. In 1995, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Work Group on Dying, Death and Bereavement and served as chair from 1997-1999. The Association for Death Education and Counseling presented him with an Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Death Education in 1998. In 2000 Scott and White presented him an award for Outstanding Contributions to Thanatology and Hospice. His Alma Mater Concordia College presented him with their first Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2006, Dr. Doka was grandfathered in as a Mental Health Counselor under NY State’s first licensure of counselors. Dr. Doka has keynoted conferences throughout North America as well as Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. He participates in the annual Hospice Foundation of America Teleconference and has appeared on CNN and Nightline. In addition he has served as a consultant to medical, nursing, funeral service and hospice organizations as well as businesses and educational and social service agencies. Dr. Doka is an ordained Lutheran minister. Dr. Doka appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart“ to discuss “Dealing with Grief and Loss.” To hear Dr. Doka being interviewed on this show by Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley062807.mp3

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