Sunday, August 29, 2010

Loss and Grief in The Technological Age

Over the past few years, I have loved how technology has kept my family connected.    When cell phones first became the norm in our family, many of us soon decided to stay connected more economically by either making sure we were all using the same provider, or by  having a family plan that allowed us to call each other out of a "free bucket of minutes."  Even though my children were all grown and had left home when we first became connected by cell phone use, suddenly, Mom was always available, even when she was away from home.  I was ok with this new phenomena.  I love being connected to my kids.

When texting came into vogue, my daughters reacted quite strongly to my first few texts.  They said it  was "just wrong" for a mom to be texting.  That didn't last long.  We were soon texting each other regularly.

Then, along came facebook.  My oldest daughter got me started on that social networking system.  Before long, it seemed the entire extended family was connected.  Cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, even my 94 year old mother, were all sharing memories, experiences and daily status updates with each other via facebook.  It was great.

Then, my youngest daughter died in May.  The unthinkable happened.  She ended her life.  By doing this, all communication with her stopped suddenly, and without warning.  I never got to say good-bye.  Even worse, she did not call me, text me, or try to talk to me before her fateful last action.  In a time when I thought we could all communicate so readily and easily, communication with my fourth child stopped.  No matter how amazing technology has become,  I will never hear from her again.

Not long after Julie's death, my oldest daughter set up a "Memorial Page" on my youngest daughter's facebook page.  She writes to her sister often.  She expresses some of her sorrow, her grief, and even her anger, on this memorial page.  Sometimes, my daughter's friends will post to her memorial page.  When I read these posts, I sometimes cry as if my heart will break.  Even though these public expressions of grief often greatly upset me, I also find that they are also very comforting and healing.  Julie's friends and I are now all connected in a new way:  we are connected via the internet in our experience and expression of grief.

I never write to my now deceased daughter on her memorial page.  I may make comments to other postings.  I seldom mention my grief on my facebook status update.  I have not devoted much blog space to my loss.  Instead, I have mostly expressed my grief and loss through a more private modality.  I have not felt comfortable expressing the depth of my emotions in the public arena.  

After the death of my daughter, I turned to my handwritten journal to express all that I was experiencing and thinking.  My journal has always been where I have recorded my private thoughts, fears, dreams, disappointment, frustrations, deepest longings and most wonderful joys.  Writing seemed to be the most logical action to take when I found myself stripped of everything that made sense.  

I have filled nearly an entire journal with pages and pages of writing since my daughter's death.  This writing has been for me, and me alone.  It is through writing, with pen and paper, that I have been able to pour out my heart.  I have not wanted my expressions of grief to be in the public eye.  I may change how I feel about this someday, but for now, I find my private, hand-written journal to be my source of comfort and healing.

I do believe I am on the road to healing, whatever that means.  At least, I know that I am not as overwhelmed with grief, shock and unbelief as I was in the early days of summer.  I am grateful for that.  I must also acknowledge that technology has been an important part of my healing.  Through technology, I am able to connect with my daughter's many wonderful friends.  They have been a source of comfort to me.  I laugh at their posts about daily life.  I admire the pictures of their children.  I cry over their expressions of grief.  I am amazed at how compassionate and supportive they have been to me and my entire family.  We are connected because of technology.

I am able to chat and text my other children.  We cry with each other and express our sorrow via cell phones and texts.  We try to support each other as much as we can since miles separate us.  Through technology, I am able to Skype my youngest son in Bangladesh.  When a mom has a son and his family so far away, I often find myself thinking, "Thank God for Skype and instant messaging." Technology keeps my family connected in wonderful ways as we deal with our incredible loss.  The other night, I was texting with a daughter, while she texted with her sister, and I was at the very same time instant messaging with my son in Bangladesh.  Technology is really very amazing. It certainly plays an important role in the way I am dealing with my own personal loss and grief.


Linda said...

Wow, what a wonderful post. Lots to think about in this one. Thanks for sharing this experience.

Jean said...

Wow. You express yourself so well. What deep grief you have and are experiencing, and it's understandable that you've chosen to keep that private, at least for now. How wonderful that you can keep in close contact with your other children, however,...even the son in Bangladesh.

Jean said...

P.S. Just read your post on wearing pj's most of the day. It sometimes takes me until noontime to finally get dressed. I suffer no guilt!

Lynilu said...

I followed Linda here, and I'm glad I did. Yes, a wonderful post.

I love technology and have jumped on most new things pretty quickly, but occasionally I am concerned about the impersonality of electronic communication. I still love to hear the voices occasionally, so I make calls and so do my kids. And there is still a good thing to be found in handwritten journals and letters, too. I don't do it as often as I should. You've made me think about it, and perhaps it will be a good reminder to do so.

DJan said...

You are so right about how much our lives have changed with technology connecting us in ways I would never have believed possible. I iChat with family members, we all have cell phones, and some even have iPhones that keep them connected day and night.

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You have my sincere condolences. My son died at 40 of a heart attack in 2002, and I still miss him, now with much less pain but it still comes up now and then with enormous intensity.

Kay said...

Linda from A Slower Pace sent me over to your blog, and I'm glad she did. I think it's wonderful that you are reaching out to people even though many of them are in cyberspace. Even though it's a cyber person, there is a real heart behind each post.

I've read before that though journals were often used as therapy for healing, psychiatrists are now recommending blogs because of the feedback and empathy we can receive from a wider circle of friends.

I really believe in it. I am so glad to meet you and hope you can be comforted a little in knowing that we are all giving you a cyber hug today.

Maggie said...

It's a powerful message you send us all. If I could still write, I would use a paper journal again too.

Thanks for being here.

Linda Reeder said...

Linda at A Slower Pace guided me here, too.
What a shocking loss you and your family have suffered! I am so sorry.
I am on Facebook, too, to keep up with my kids, I can skype with my grandkids who live far away, and my kids and I exchange texts too. Most of our exchanges are of a much lighter nature, ususally during sporting events involving our Seattle soccer and football teams.
I can understand why you chose pen and notebook to record your greiving, however. sometimes we don't want anyone to "fix it". We just need an outlet.

Kay Dennison said...

What a wonderful, soul-baring post.
Losing a child is probably the most heart-breaking loss a mother can experience. I appreciate your sharing your grief with us and hope it helped you.

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

(And Linda at A Slower Pace semt me over, too and I added you to my following).

lakeviewer said...

This is so touching! And yes, I agree with you, with today's technology, we are all a bit more connected. I do hope you have found a support group, besides your family, where you can speak out freely about your loss and your pain. It is a deep wound that takes a very long time to stop bleeding all over you, all over everybody she knew and loved. As it should be! We can't heal fast from such wounds. We can go dumm with meds and silence, but we are not healing. We need more; we need to pour out our thoughts and crash with the waves.

Joanne said...

My Kids are still small enough that they still depend on me to be there physically every day. As I gripe about technology and all the other gizmos and gadgets I realize through this most heart felt post that one day my kids will go off on there seperate journeys. They will be in places where I will not be or experience with them and that makes me so sad. Thank you for making me see that it is indeed a blessing to have this technology around us. You have such a beautiful family. God bless you all as you continue to live and love after the death of your Precious Daughter. Blessings, Joanne