Reaching out to relatives of our online friends


Disclaimer: This post is based solely on the author’s personal experience, any information provided should be employed at your discretion.

Recently, I posted and invited readers to tell me what they wanted to know about cyberloss. There were questions on the reality of online friendships, and insightful comments which reaffirmed their necessity. Others wrote asking how they could reach out to family members after the loss of an online friend if they did not know the family.

I intend to tackle that with today’s post. My experience was slightly different, as I had the luxury of being involved with a community of people who were responsible for keeping us updated on Chris’ health, and afterwards it was a question of choosing the right moment and choosing the right words.

Considering the nature of the internet, and the anonymity that some users like to preserve, it can be difficult to establish contact with surviving family members. In my view, your best bet is to approach those who have had contact with the person outside of their online life. If you can get access to an email address for somebody who knew them personally, and you feel comfortable, send an email explaining how you knew the person, and that you’d like to contact the family. As long as they’re done in a respectful way, such gestures are often appreciated.

If you intend to reach out and contact surviving family members, it is wise to take stock of your own situation first. Ask yourself whether you want to get back in touch for your own sake, or for theirs. When I reached out to Chris’ family, it was a mixture of the two. I wanted to show them that I cared about her still, and to reassure myself that they were coping. Since I first contacted them in 2008, I have thought about writing again, but the fact that life goes on tells me that I shouldn’t.

I was able to contact one of Chris’ friends and through him I ended up writing to her family.    I simply expressed condolences and made sure they were aware of the influence Chris had on my life.

I didn’t feel as though I was in a position to offer any help, because of the geographical distance, but assured them that they were in my thoughts.

Contact with surviving relatives can be reassuring – I found it very helpful to know that the family’s lives went on, although they obviously miss her presence in their lives.

I can only speak from my experience, and I would welcome any comments/advice from those who have successfully contacted relatives of their departed online friends. Please feel free to share your story in the comments.

Wishing you peace and strength on your journeys,

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About Casey Bottono

I am in love with language. I write poetry and fiction in a wide variety of genres. Most recently, I have been shortlisted as a finalist in the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities' Pen2Paper contest.
This entry was posted in Chris, cyberloss, Grief Loss and Bereavement, online friendship, online loss issues, online-loss and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Reaching out to relatives of our online friends

  1. nikky44 says:

    I think for me, it would depend on the situation. It would mainly depend on the relationship my friend had with her family, how close they were. If there were close and we are good friends, I think she would certainly introduce me to members of her family, and that would make things easier. I have online friends who are very sick, and I am already terrified at the idea of losing them 😦

    • Casey B says:

      Hi, Nikky.

      I know exactly what you mean. I was lucky, because Chris granted me the privilege of seeing pictures, and knowing a little about her family whilst she was still alive. So, I already had that kind of ‘bridge’ – plus a sense that she talked about me anyway.

      I’m holding you in my thoughts, because I have felt that fear myself. We love them, we don’t want to lose them- it’s the most natural thing in the world to be scared. One thing that might help is to write it out and burn it. Thank you for planting the seed for another future post.

      Take care,

      Casey

  2. Casey, I’ve yet to experience this online, up close and personal. However, I know how much the outpouring of sympathies after my husband passed in ’97 from people I had never met truly touched my heart.
    Yes, we must be sensitive and ask, as you have stated here, are we doing this for the family or for ourselves? But, I will say that the contacts from people who knew John but did not know me touched my heart so deeply.
    I saved every card . . .
    May God bless you in this ministry you have created here.
    Martha

    • Casey B says:

      Hi, Martha.

      Thank you for writing so beautifully of your experience. I am pleased that you agree on the issue of whether we are making contact for the family or our own benefit. I wrestled with that for some time before deciding that not making contact would cause me to remain in the same state of limbo, not really having anybody to connect with over the loss. I stress the point again and again, but having some connection after the death of an online friend is vital in my opinion.

      Best wishes to you in your journey.

      Take care, and God bless.

      Casey

  3. Hi, Casey! ~

    I’ve never had this experience but I appreciate the thoughtful way you approach this subject.

    Holding you in my heart as you continue to heal…

    Blessings!

  4. melissa says:

    I’ve experienced several losses both in real life and in the cyberworld. I haven’t had the chance to communicate with my patients’ family after their hospital stay/ death. I think I’m luckier online.

    Before my online bf went away, he introduced me to his closest friends (I still kept one, hoping someday, I’ll get news from him).

    I lost one of my soul sis online. I met her whole family through Skype. Her loved ones were the first to reach out. The communication became less but they continued her blog, I continually pray for all of them.

    Their memories will always stay alive in my heart…

    • Casey B says:

      Hi, Melissa.

      Thank you for honouring me with your comment. I love your story of meeting her whole family through Skype. Chris blessed me by sharing photos of her children, but there was no time for anything else. I’m impressed that the family felt able to continue your friend’s blog…that must be a real comfort for you to be able to go there and see old posts, and occasional new ones.

      Best wishes,

      Casey

  5. Casey, thank you so much for taking the time to answer the questions presented on your last post. I appreciate the sincerity and authenticity you offer in your answers. This is such a very delicate subject matter, especially when it involves an on line friend. In our lives, when we experience a death, it is relatively easy to jump in the car and pay the family a visit or to pick up the phone and make a call. On line presents other challenges. Most of who I know on line I don’t know the extended family, or if I do, it’s very few. So an on line death is much harder for me to deal with. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and insight on this subject.

    • Casey B says:

      Mary,

      Thank you for taking the time to engage with what I posted. It’s an honour to finally witness the kind of meaningful discussion that I always hoped this blog would foster…and this is only the beginning. The difficulty in dealing with online death is what prompted me to start this place…nobody else really acknowledges it, or if they do, it’s not done in an appropriate way. I can only hope that as time goes on, a more open and widespread discussion will begin.

      Take care,

      Casey

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience, Casey. As Mary said online is so much more challenging. Melissa is talking about the same case that Mary and I had shared with you. Recently the family has started to continue the blog and I hope to be able to reach out and make contact as Melissa has. I’m always inspired by your authenticity and sensitivity ♥

    • Casey B says:

      Thank you for your interest, Corinne.

      I am very sorry that your community endured that experience, but it seems to me that yours is very strong, and will come together and support one another through the loss…something I only wish could have happened with the Harrison community, rather than one of our members being so quickly forgotten, and another ostracised because of her reaction to her circumstances. Ah, well…such is life.

      Take care,

      Casey

      • Incidentally you are now part of that community, Casey. 🙂
        I’m sorry to hear about what happened in the Harrison community. Yes, it is part of life and we live and learn, don’t we?

  7. nikky44n says:

    Hi Casey, I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you on My Blog for the Reader Appreciation Award, Much Love ❤
    http://nikkysstrengthandweakness-nikky44.blogspot.com/2012/05/sharing-love.html

I love it when you share your thoughts- so feel free.

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