In November last year, Christie Pairs learned that her long-term online friend Amy died suddenly. It was a shock. She says she still can’t hold back the tears, remembering the days when she found out about the misfortune. She said that for her Amy “was much more “real” friend than many people in real life.”
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41-year-old Christy Valentine, founder of South Carolina, first met Amy through mutual friends in the online game Star Wars 2013. She fondly remembers that Amy had the same “strannika” as herself, and a love of science fiction novels quickly brought them closer together. “We chatted every day and shared photos of our children.” And although he and Amy knew each other only virtually, daily correspondence has been a huge support for many years. “She inspired me to publish my work, says Couples – and was one of the few who I let read what I wrote to publish.”
According to the research center Pew, today about 70 % of Americans communicate via social networks. Of course, we communicate in real life, but become attached to people never met in person.
How ever much we use smartphones and other gadgets to build relationships with virtual strangers – and for a romantic relationship, and for friendship. We celebrate each other’s successes, share challenges, and despite the distance, we communicate over the years. But what happens when the person on the other side of the screen dying?
It was a shock, says Steam. One morning, she replayed the news feed and came across a message where someone has expressed condolences to the family of Amy. “I thought it was some kind of mistake”.
She frantically sent a message to Amy and waited for the status will change to “viewed”, but nothing happened.
“Days passed, and I was still waiting, she says. – I continued to hope that it will be someone else, or that it was a mistake”. In the end she contacted my husband to Amy through an intermediary, and he confirmed that her friend died. “It was a tragedy, I cried all day.”
Our ideas about what relationships are actually “real”, do not coincide with the true position of things, said Megan devine, a psychotherapist from Portland. She was sure that deep sense of loss not limited to friendship in real life.
One of the difficulties faced by Couples Christie after the death of Amy was the lack of sympathy from others.
“Even the most benevolent and compassionate people don’t attach as much importance to your grief as if you lost a friend that I knew and met personally,” she said.
Social norms concerning grief in cyber relations is still relatively new, and to this day remains poorly understood. “When your relationship is beyond bodily pain virtually invisible,” says devine.
As a result, people often experience what psychologists call “disenfranchised grief,” a term coined in 1985 by Dr. Kenneth Doka, with the aim to describe the loss that is not recognized by others.
Such losses do not allow the person to experience catharsis, as if divided grief. “Oh, no socially sanctioned right to grieve, says Dr Doka, – But these relations can be very deep.”
Here are five ways to cope with the loss of a virtual friend.
Does not gloss over the incident
“It is a double grief, says Dr. Kathleen R. Gilbert, author of “Dying, death and grief in an online Universe,” because that person is mourning not only his loss, but the loss of the support which he hoped to obtain from other people. For example, from friends or from family, which will only confuse your grief”. And here the first step is to recognize that any relationship is important, and virtual, and in real life.
Tell us about your sorrow
The Internet expands our view of the world beyond the bodily real. Social media allows us to know the other person, its hopes and dreams — and, similarly, to share our own. Many of us for years nurtured a relationship based only on words and images.
The cyber loss is not less real or less important simply because the communication was online. If you do not sit with a person in the room and meet over a Cup of tea in her hometown, this does not mean that people will not close.
Carefully Express condolences
Should we contact the man’s family to Express our condolences? On the one hand, we want to tell you how much he meant to us, but we also fear come not to the court.
Megan devine offers carefully to Express sympathy to family or friends of the deceased, by sending a message or email in which to share our warm memories. Family members can not directly read your letter, but it would be nice to know how much he was loved dear to them.
As for the funeral, Megan devine warns that there are certain boundaries, to keep in mind. Everyone has the right to grieve, but if we were not a close relative of the deceased, at funerals we may be strangers. However, it is not necessary to completely eliminate the possibility of going to the funeral. Go, if you feel that you must, but do not try to enter the inner circle of the deceased. “Your relationships are valuable, but they differ from the relations between husband and wife, parents, children, relatives, etc.,” she says.
To honor the memory of
The most difficult task is to accept the reality of the loss, according to the psychotherapist Julia Samuel, London. With an Internet friend you have less physical interference and objects on which to focus their grief, and it can prevent to accept and believe in his death. Therefore, it is an important ritual that marked the death would be accomplished. You can light a candle and say a prayer or a poem, or go to Church.
Although the pain will eventually lessen, but as the doctor says, Doc, we never recovered from the loss completely, we just learn to live with it. This also applies to cyber-grief. And here we should find support in the online community or friends.
Creating relationships based on mutual care, support and kindness – be it a relationship online or offline is your best resource. Investing in these relationships is your best insurance. Whatever is happening, there are people willing to support you. And when a person dies whom we loved more than anything in this moment we need support and love.