A decade ago it would have been unfathomable to expect that the online world would be a place that someone could turn to, somewhere they could share news of their loss, establish online memorials or explore their innermost thoughts.
Today two women share how their online community provided much needed support to them in a time of need.
Just over 18 months ago when Lori Dwyer’s husband Tony died from a sudden psychotic episode, her blog was the first place she went to. It was the only place that made sense to her as she grappled with the reality of what had happened and it helped her explore the confusion and terror about being left behind with two small children. The post that greeted her readers on that day was drastically different from draft she had prepared about a Dorothy the Dinosaur concert:
‘I don’t know how to write this post. The Lori you know is gone. My husband is currently in the Intensive Care Unit, fighting for his life. He is in a critical condition. No one knows what will happen’.
Three days later Lori’s husband was gone but in contrast her blog continued to morph and flex with her changing moods. She talked about the darkness and light that came with the shock of losing her husband before her thirtieth birthday but also found that it was a way to honour him. It gave her the chance to share her story: ‘in terms of recovery and self-esteem I have relied on my blog without question. I look at my blog and I don’t know how else I would have made it’.
It seems that blogs are not just machines that allow people to stretch their writing muscle, they are excellent ‘therapy’ tools too. Charlie Stansfield, facilitator of the course Writing the difficult stuff explains that ‘writing about thoughts and feelings, past and present about a traumatic event can be very healing for some people.’
She thinks that one of the benefits is that writing a blog post helps the person to ‘gain distance from the trauma and gives opportunity to get in touch with their resilience and the survival part of the story’. They are an online portal to the inner recesses of a person’s psyche and provide insights to new ways of coping with loss and sadness. In death there is little privacy about the person that is lost but those that surround them can reach out and share as a way of making sense, to give people a sense of the person they’ve lost and they way they chose to survive.
Lisa King has had to survive two massive losses in the last year. Her son Noah, 10, passed away last October after a long illness and then in January 2012 she lost her husband Aaron from a suspected heart attack. She is now raising her three boys alone but her blog is something she is determined to continue.
‘I actually did make a conscious decision to blog after Aaron and Noah died as it just seemed like the natural thing to do – to continue blogging our life including the bad’.
For some, when sudden losses happen, they feel the urge to curl inwards and shield themselves from sharing the stark reality but Lisa found that the online community embraced her in ways she hadn’t expected. She found strength in the continual comments and well wishes left for her as she began to explore a new normal in terms of how her life now looks.
When reading both Lori and Lisa’s blogs you experience clearly that moment where their lives changed forever. Neither women has held back from cataloguing their darkest moments, points in time where the raw disbelief and shock they feel is palpable. Despite all the darkness there is hope though. Each new post serves to illustrate the remarkable resilience of the human spirit while giving valuable insight into the people they’ve lost as well as those that were left behind.
Do you keep an old school or online journal? Have you ever shared some really tough times and benefited from the support of your online community?