Bereavement & Social Media

by Kathy on August 17, 2011 · 9 comments

in Adoption, Background, Bereavement, Family, Grief, Inspiration, Loss, Love, Quotes, Social Media

When I first heard that my friend Lori, from Write Mind Open Heart, was going to be “live tweeting” the funeral of the husband of fellow blogger Melissa, from Full Circle, I had mixed feelings. Though I knew that Lori had gotten Melissa’s permission and blessing to do so, my initial reaction was cynical and I questioned if tweeting during, and specifically about, a person’s funeral was taking the role of social media in bereavement too far. However, I tried to reserve further judgement until after I had a chance to read Lori’s tweets and see how the whole thing played out.

I was able to read a few of Lori’s tweets (which used the hashtag #luvmel) on my phone this afternoon. But I didn’t have time to sit down and scroll through all of them (in reverse order as it turned out, because I started with the most recent tweets went back from there) until late this evening when I got home from a meeting. As I started reading each thoughtful tweet that Lori had typed and viewed many of the touching pictures she shared, I was very moved. I was struck by how much a part of things I felt, not having been there.

I don’t really know Melissa, though I have visited and commented on her blog a handful of times over the past year via Perfect Moment Mondays. So though I can appreciate what a tragic loss this is for her and her family, I am experiencing all of this as more of a caring and concerned bystander, than someone who really knows and loves them. That said, I can only imagine how much Lori’s #luvmel tweets meant to those who do know and love Melissa and her family that weren’t able to be with them in person for her husband’s funeral today.

I may have been skeptical in the beginning as to whether or not “live tweeting” a funeral was appropriate, but in the end I think it was a beautiful and inclusive way for those who love and care about Melissa, her late husband and their family (including all those who knew them through the “blogosphere” and “twittersphere”) to feel a part of (and even participate in) the memorial service and celebration of life today. Though it would have never occurred to me, prior to today, to tweet about something like the funeral of a loved one while I was experiencing it, I do understand why it was a worthwhile endeavor for Lori to take on. I also believe now that it was a very kind gesture for Lori to offer to do on behalf of her friend Melissa who is grieving the tragic and unexpected death of her husband and the father of their soon to be adopted foster children.

At one point in the midst of her “live tweeting,” Lori invited all those who had “tuned in to the funeral, (to) please tweet something with (the) #luvmel hashtag so Mel knows who was here.” I thought that was a wonderful idea, as now long after these end of life festivities are over, Melissa will have another “virtual guestbook” to read through. Hopefully feeling the love and support that was surrounding her from all over the country (and in some cases even the world) today will bring Melissa some comfort in the days to follow as she begins to work through her grief and learns to adjust to this “new normal” in her life without her dear husband by her side.

I know that losing one’s husband is not the same thing as losing a child, however as a bereaved mother and “wounded healer” I often feel drawn to those who are suffering after the loss of a loved one. Though every loss is different, I have found that anyone who has had to bury a family member (of any age) that left this world too soon has a lot in common. I had not yet joined Facebook or Twitter during my pregnancy or at the time our daughter Molly was born and died (from a rare and severe combination of Congenital Heart Defects) in April 2008. Beyond sending email updates to family and friends and blogging about our experience, we did set up a CarePage to keep loved ones and other “Heart Families” who reached out to us in the loop, specifically about our journey with our baby girl. However, I have often wondered since how things might have been different if I had been on Facebook and Twitter back then — not necessarily better or worse, just different.

After witnessing today’s outpouring of love and support for Melissa and her family, it warms my heart to be reminded that social media has many very positive and inspiring aspects to it. I know there is a lot of criticism out there about people, like myself, using Facebook status updates and Twitter to “naval gaze” and share about things that most people could care less about, such as what one of their friend’s ate for lunch today. However, what I witnessed today is one of many examples of how we can use social media to help bring people together during painful, difficult and uncertain times in our lives.

When someone has lost a loved one, it means so much to know that others care and are there to support you. I know first hand how much every visit, phone call, card, email, CarePage message and comment on my blog meant to me during our pregnancy and after the birth and death of our baby girl Molly. I can only imagine how much more love (not that we didn’t receive a heartwarming abundance at the time) we would have been wrapped in if I had been more connected with social media during the early stages and the depths of our bereavement.

Thank you for reading. On this night I send much love, as well as healing thoughts and prayers, to all those whose lives have been touched by and are better for knowing Melissa’s husband. I know that I have shared this quote before here on my blog, but it continues to bring me great comfort at times like these. So I leave you with this tonight as we honor the life and memory of another husband, father and friend who has gone too soon:

“What we have once enjoyed and loved deeply we can never lose. For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~ Helen Keller

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Please note: Whether or not you *know* Melissa from her blog, Full Circle, if you would like to reach out and offer your support, to help her and her two children financially in the coming days and years, please click here to find out more about a fund that is being raised for them by Melissa’s cousin. Thank you.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lavender Luz August 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Oh, Kathy, your post means so much to me.

I am exhausted tonight and will try to form a more coherent thought tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know I appreciate that you wrote this up.

XOXO

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2 Esperanza August 17, 2011 at 11:21 pm

What a wonderful post. I must admit, that I had a similar first impression when I heard about the live tweeting from the funeral. I just didn't see how it could be appropriate but then I started reading the tweets and I too was really moved by them and felt very involved in the service, which is strange because I don't know Melissa and have never read her blog. Still, I can't imagine the pain she is going through right now and I think if I were in her position, I would want people to know the wonderful things that were said about my husband. I definitely learned something new about what social media is capable of. It was quite inspiring.

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3 jjiraffe August 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Great post. I also only knew Melissa from Lori's "Perfect Moments", but I admired her bright, lovely blog. I was so shocked and sad to hear about her husband.

When I heard Lori was going to do the live tweet, I wondered but then I thought, it's Lori. Lori is so gracious and kind, I figured it would be done really well and tastefully. Which it was.

Thank you for offering your own perspective as a bereaved parent. I know from reading your blog how much Molly's loss shapes you and the Helen Keller quote is really beautiful.

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4 HereWeGoAJen August 18, 2011 at 8:10 am

I had the same initial reaction as you, but when I saw some of them, I thought it was absolutely perfect.

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5 Lavender Luz August 18, 2011 at 10:40 am

Reading your post and these comments gives me great peace. I knew it was a task that had to be done mindfully, and I did it for two reasons (which you grasped):

1) to enable people who couldn't be at the funeral physcially to be there emotionally

2) to give Melissa a chronicle of the celebration of Matt's life. Her role was to attend to all the guests and be there for her children. But with the #luvmel stream, she can re-live, in private, the moments of this celebration, from a more objective view.

Thank you, Kathy, and thank you Esperanza, JJiraffe and Jen.

Namaste to you all and to Mel and her husband.

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6 Delenn August 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

I like you, only knew Melissa through Perfect Moments. It seemed only appropriate to me that Lavendur Luz would, who brought us together, would be the one to keep us near for this heartbreaking time.

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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7 Kristin August 18, 2011 at 10:55 am

I think my initial reaction was surprise but I was so glad to be able to "be there" in some manner to support Mel. I think Lori did an amazing job.

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8 Meg August 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Like you, my first thoughts were "live tweeting a funeral?!?!" But after reading your post, I see how it can be such a wonderful way to connect those from afar as well as a way to support the grieving.

Within the past couple of months, two of my friends have lost their fathers and one other has seen her husband through cancer treatment. Each of these women has been cradled in support from their facebook friends.

One friend was struggling with praying for her father when it didn't seem to be working as he was declining. I shared with her the song and lyrics to Martina McBride's "Anyway" that was such a comfort to me a few years back when I was feeling so helpless when you learned of Molly's diagnosis and during the months that followed.

My favorite verse is: "God is great, but sometimes life ain't good And when I pray, it doesn't always turn out like I think it should. But I do it anyway." I'm pasting a link to my favorite video of her performing this live as it is so powerful. http://youtu.be/Cr_iNfxZl0I

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9 Melissa August 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Thank you for the beautiful post. I continue to be carried through this by the love and support of friends and family .. in person and through my social media soldiers. I can see how it may of seemed odd initially, but believe you me, it was a beautiful gesture of a dear dear friend. I am so blessed to have Lori (and so many others) on my side. Truly a blessing.

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