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.