Firstly, I’d like to apologise for the length of this post. I don’t usually write two articles a month, but I thought this one warranted a longer post sooner rather than later.
For those of us who have lost online friends, there are specific challenges following a loss, as with any other significant bereavement. Those who have experienced a conventional loss may be forced to face the reality of seeing a loved one’s grave for the first time, whereas ‘we’ may be placed in a position of having to come to terms with the fact that we may never see or visit our friends’ resting places.
Due to society’s increasing reliance on technology, those who are bereaved of online friends are eventually faced with the decision to return to online communities. In my opinion, such a transition should be taken slowly. Online interaction after cyberloss can be stressful, as those affected may feel that they need to keep up the same level of presence they did previously. It’s important to remember that despite the unconventional nature of the loss, you must still allow yourself to grieve. Knowing somebody online simply means the medium is different, the friendship is still real.
My personal experience of returning to online community after cyberloss was jarring. I endured a period of about three months where I continually expected to hear from Chris, although I was conscious of the fact that she had died. It may be that new developments within the community are of less interest than they would otherwise have been.
Archived material and old posts could be useful when the decision is made to return to online communities, as they can provide an abundance of memories. In addition to revisiting old material, it may be helpful to welcome new members to communities. In the same way as life goes on in the material world after a loss, so it does in the virtual world.
This can at first be a difficult concept to grasp (again, I speak from experience) but as long as we tell the stories of those we have loved in online communities, they will remain a part of the fabric of those places. Finding some way to memorialize online friends on your own terms is also a possibility for making the return to online communities slightly easier.
In my opinion, the decision to return to online communities isn’t one that can be taken lightly. In many ways, it can stir up already raw emotions and lead to questioning. A role that may have once been defined by your friendship is no longer there, and that is tough. Wait until you feel ready to make the step, and then do it at your own pace.
Have you returned to online communities after a loss or even just a break? What was the transition like for you? Please feel free to share in the comments.
Wishing you peace and strength on your journeys,