Mourning and Social Media
Today’s guest post comes from Leigh Kramer, who is a certified thanatologist and former hospice worker, which easily makes her a candidate for a “Top 10 Coolest People in the World” award.
In May 2010, Leigh intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God. She writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. A former medical social worker, she is currently writing her first novel. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and her blog HopefulLeigh.
We know that grief is a stranger to no one. At any time, we could lose a person that is a part of our lives. Now in the age of social media, we’re facing loss on a virtual level.
Since blog friends can be real friends, what do we do when a blog/Twitter friend dies?
I stumbled unto Gitzen Girl‘s blog a couple of years ago, amazed by her joyful spirit in spite of her circumstances: a painful chronic illness. I’ve read her blog sporadically the past several months, but was always glad when she’d pop up at (in)courage.
Last summer, she vulnerably explored her grief after the sudden death of her father. Grief is messy. There are no pat answers when your world is ripped apart. Until you’ve experienced the pain of losing a loved one, it’s impossible to know what the bereaved experience.
Sara lifted the veil for those who haven’t walked that road and provided community to those who’ve mourned. In some ways, she prepared us for what we now face.
On Wednesday, news spread through the blogosphere that Sara’s body was shutting down. She started hospice and her loved ones began the process of saying goodbye.
But what about the rest of us? Those of us who had felt encouraged and comforted by her writing but knew Sara by her words alone. We’ve felt the impending loss all the same.
When you don’t have that face-to-face connection, how do you mourn? The intersection of grief and social media adds a new dimension to bereavement. Loss is loss, no matter what.
We simply have to be more creative when it comes to mourning those in our social media circle.
The Twitter hashtag #ChooseJoy sprang up Wednesday as the news spread, a place for everyone to reflect on Sara’s impact on our lives. Sara’s words made real, a testimony to who she is and how we’ll remember her.
Wednesday night we learned that Sara’s family would have a candlelight vigil at 7:45 CST. And so all around the country, people lit candles and said prayers.
People have been writing beautiful posts about what Sara has meant to them. Her dear friend Jessica began a link-up for all the posts. It is amazing- and at times overwhelming- to see how one person affected so many people, many of whom never met her in real life.
There’s talk of Choose Joy jewelry being created. And then there’s this other way to commemorate Gitz’s life: a Choose Joy tattoo in her own handwriting. Tam‘s already taken the plunge and many more, myself included, will follow suit.
Jessica’s husband Matthew reflected on social media’s impact on Sara. Because of her illness, Sara’s been limited to her condo for a couple of years now. She Skyped, she blogged, she Tweeted. Along the way, her life expanded beyond the walls of her condo.
She brought us into her world and we brought her in to ours. This is why so many face the task of mourning someone they’ve never met.
It may be tempting to ignore our sadness, to say we don’t have the right to mourn Sara since we didn’t know her personally. However, we’ll only be doing ourselves a disservice.
No matter the connection, we must give ourselves permission to mourn.
Be sad. Cry. Reflect on what Sara meant to you. Pray. Decide how her legacy will impact your life.
Above all else, choose joy.
How do you choose joy?