It's harder to mourn now. Our entire culture is geared towards the quick fix and there are no visible signs that say I am lost. Strong, painful emotions are meant to be exposed maybe once, then hidden away (Kevin has been gone for 2.5 weeks and I've been asked if I feel better yet). We yearn for community to support us, but many of us don't have a clear place to turn.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have friends and family who are beside me as I travel the widow's path. I've also turned to social media for community. I have plenty of live, in-person community for which I am immensely grateful, but social media has become an immediate source of comfort when I am in pain which, these days, is most of the time. It gives me an outlet when I don't want to call a friend in the middle of the night. It gives me a lasting record of support, when my mind is so tired and sad that I can't remember the arms that held me just a moment ago. All I need to do is look online and I can see the many people who care.
Throughout Kevin's illness I kept everyone updated via CaringBridge and Facebook. It would have been all but impossible to communicate with the hundreds of people who care about him without these tools. And now, when I am in enormous need of support, I can post on Facebook and immediately am reminded that, in some ways, I am not alone.
I am so grateful for this support. I struggle with these tools to some degree, because I worry that I'm taking advantage of everyone's concern by reaching out online, but right now? I'll set the guilt aside and take what comfort I can. It does mean my broader online communities are exposed to more emotion than these tools usually see and I have exposed my vulnerability, but no one has complained as yet. I feel some trepidation that people are not given the freedom to opt-in to the grief, but have it placed in front of them because it shows up in their feed, then I remind myself that they can skip the post or block me. That's okay.
Social media doesn't replace the living village, but it's a good start. And if Facebook, Twitter, CaringBridge or LinkedIn are what it takes to get me through the coming long nights, then I'm all for it. Thank you all for being my extended community and holding me safe online as I grieve. Thank you for being so patient as I figure out how to navigate this new world before me. Apparently it can be done in small steps, even just 140 characters at a time.
(c)2014 Laura S. Packer