Grief in the Time of Social Media

Grief in the Time of Social Media

It’s been three months now since Jon-Marc died. <cliché>I still can’t believe he’s gone.</cliché> I keep waiting to see him tweet, update on Facebook, or pop on to Skype for a chat. The way that social media has connected many of us more tightly than ever before has been both the most wonderful and most terrible parts of this grief.

Not long after he died I got a notification that Jon-Marc Creaney had joined a group on LinkedIn. My heart leapt! I can’t explain how it happened. It may have been the group admin had just accepted Jon-Marc’s request to join. I’ll never know but for almost a whole minute I was convinced he was right there and was never gone and then I remembered again. That’s the hard part. I bring up Skype and he is still there on my contact list but it never lights up to show me he is online and ready to chat. I’m still following him on Twitter but he doesn’t tweet any more. We are still friends on Facebook but he hasn’t updated his status since November 1st, a link to his last blog post. Every now and again someone posts something about him or tags him in a photograph and his name shows up in my timeline. Once again my heart leaps but then crashes to the ground with a painful thud.

But that’s the downside.

There’s an upside … a wonderful upside.

When I miss him I can visit with him again through his photography on Flickr, his blog posts, and the parts of his life that were recorded in posts to Twitter and Facebook. I can revisit our conversations on Skype and other instant message services used over the years. I have a whole segment of his life recorded to keep with me and revisit again and again as I need it. Right now it can be very painful and I question why I do it to myself. I hope with time it will become easier and I will be able to savor the joy it brings and feel the pain less. For all the pain it brings I feel so blessed to have these snapshots of my brother that have only come in this day and age.

It has also been an immense comfort to communicate with friends and family sharing our grief and sharing the joy it is to have known Jon-Marc. I’ve lived many miles away for 17 years now and missed getting to know the friends Jon-Marc made during that time. It surprised me but in the last few years Jon-Marc became very active online and the miles between us melted away. He was the least tech-savvy of my brothers and so was the last I thought would have become so connected. Despite that connection you don’t get to know the other people in a person’s life.

After Jon-Marc died  there was an outpouring of messages in various places online. Memories and thoughts on the influence Jon-Marc had in each of our lives were shared. Going forward there are now new connections with people who shared his life and held him dear.

I hear many complaints about people who overshare online and I understand that it can become too much. I hope I don’t overshare too much but I do like being able to go back over the last few years and relive moments and events. I have an invaluable record of my child growing up through various venues over the years: LiveJournal, a blog, Facebook, Google+, etc. These things we share online are providing a great source for friends, family, and others to know and stay connected to us. Even on past your death there is a now record you were here in a new and valuable way.

Family, Living Online

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