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.