Is Grieving Online the ‘New Normal?’

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Passare.com shutterstock 367585808 Is Grieving Online the ‘New Normal?’ Your Digital Afterlife The Digital Beyond Social media grieving online grief Facebook EOL End of Life Management End of life care end of life Have you noticed a lot of people are using social media to help them deal with loss? In a recent story Passare expert Evan Carroll explains why it’s not just a trend, it’s the “new normal” for many of us living in the digital age.
Carroll, co-author of Your Digital Afterlife and founder of the blog The Digital Beyond says today’s younger generations use social media as a primary means of communicating, “They don’t know a time without this technology. They grieve in a way that makes sense to them, in their natural elements.”

Dr. Elaine Kasket, a psychologist at Regent’s University in London, found through her research into mourning on Facebook that although some “people get concerned it’s somehow not healthy,” online memorials provide the grieving with a “community of mourners.”

There’s nothing “abnormal or complicated” about grieving online Kasket says, “it can make bereavement a much less isolating experience.” Social media allows friends of the deceased to be included in the bereavement process and “friends have been a marginalized group of mourners in the past.”

Carroll says he posted about his grandmother’s passing on Facebook to include his friends in the grieving process. “It was a way for me to feel like I could involve (them). We were geographically very disconnected and I didn’t necessarily have any of my close friends nearby. Social media has brought the community back into bereavement.”

“Social networking profiles are digital extensions of our physical selves,” Kasket said. “This is the new normal behavior when grieving in the digital age. There’s always going to be complicated grief out in the world, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication that mourning online makes things worse.”

Online grieving has become so pervasive, Kasket warned of the potentially “damaging effect” of family members removing a Facebook profile being used by others for mourning. “Profile removal is a massively re-traumatizing thing. Not long ago these digital representations of people didn’t exist but now that they are around, people come to expect their continuity and rely on them.”

She argues if a family removes the deceased’s profile it “wipes away this huge repository of recollections. A Facebook profile is not just the work of one person, it’s a co-constructed thing,” said Kasket. “You, together with all your friends, built this entity. It’s a collaborative enterprise that represents relationships and connections.”

David Trickey, a consultant clinical psychologist at the Anna Freud Centre in London, says social media has “the potential to be incredibly therapeutic” when dealing with death” but “don’t be afraid to talk it through with people around you. The problem is avoidance: people will think about it and then push it away; then they don’t process it.”

Read the story here.

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