Losing someone is never easy. The grief that follows is a process with no time limit. Many people join support groups designed to help those who are grieving, to give them a voice about what their process is like. In today’s tech-savvy world, more and more people are joining these groups online, either through a specific site like Grief Share or through social media sites like Facebook. We no longer have to go to a weekly meeting; you no longer have to dress up or go out. You can just log in and you have support. But is this really useful?
When I first lost the love of my life, I sought out a support group. I knew I would need more help processing my trip than I could do on my own. Since I couldn’t find anything in the immediate vicinity, I entered grief support groups into my search engine. The results were astounding. Choosing these, I joined a few to start with what seemed the most appropriate. The nicest thing I found was the availability and ease with which groups can be entered. The fact that there is such a variety among groups makes it easy to find one that will suit your needs.
Benefits of online support groups
Continuous support: The popularity of online support is that it is easy. You can share your thoughts, your feelings, the ups and downs of grief. You can also share the grief of others. Having a connection, however tenuous, is important. By sharing this grief, we can find others who feel and experience the same things. It is through this sharing that everyone knows they are not alone. One no longer feels like one is going crazy because of what one thinks or feels. By helping others, we begin to process our own journey. That’s what support groups like this are for.
No time limit: With face-to-face groups, many can often feel that someone is “running out” of time to share. Also, you have to wait until the next meeting to be able to share your experience. In online communities, you find that you can post and share regardless of the time others spend sharing their grief. You still get answers to questions, feedback on your emotions, but there is no time limit. I have found this to be particularly useful as I can share at any time, night or day. The feeling of others helping you when you need it is incomparable
When you join these communities, there is a huge range of people at different stages of their grief. Many conventional support groups work for a set period of time, after which you are “done”. While these groups are helpful, not everyone grieves in the same way or at the same time. This journey is unique to each person and the relationship with the person who has died. Putting a time limit on when you have to go through this is an old-fashioned idea that just doesn’t work. This has been helpful for me because it means that my going through this process isn’t on a fixed schedule or that I’m only stuck because I’m not at a certain point in a certain time.
No matter what stage you’re at: With the online community’s wealth of experience, it can give hope to newcomers while allowing “old-timers” a chance to share the knowledge they’ve acquired. A widow trying to get her life back together can get hope from a widow/widow who has started to move on. By sharing their experiences, each side can benefit from the other. With many family and friends gone, the grieving person looks for others to help him process it all. The benefit of this is that in most online communities there is little evaluation of where you are in your process. No one is telling you to get over it or move on. People in these groups understand what you are going through.
Free Support: One of the biggest advantages of online groups over conventional groups is that there is often a fee involved in conventional groups. Few online support communities charge a fee, but it is relatively minimal compared to the weekly costs of a conventional group. For those who are strapped for money, they can still get the support they need at no extra cost. There are no special books to buy, all you need is your computer and internet access.
No set meeting time: Another advantage of online support groups is that you can “drop in” when it’s more convenient for you. It’s not a scheduled time and there always seems to be someone to “talk” to. You can make a few friends and discover how people from all over the world seem to have the same thoughts, feelings and experiences as you. It helps people realize that while their grief is unique to them, everyone shares a commonality that is so desperately needed when grieving. I had trouble sleeping because of nightmares about my loss. It was nice to be able to jump up in the middle of the night and find someone there who also had trouble sleeping. Sharing between us, I was able to sleep many times knowing that what I was feeling was normal.
Negatives in online grief support groups
Constant posting reminds you of your own loss: One of the biggest problems with online support groups or social media is that people can get bogged down. Daily or hourly accommodation can be quite depressing. Seeing all the different people, reading their posts, one can stay in their grief. Knowing when to back off can be difficult to discern. This can create even worse havoc in a person’s life than the grief they are experiencing. This has happened to me, I would check to see how others are doing and share a little step forward, only to be knocked down by some of the posts. Seeing what others post about what they miss or how they miss their loved ones reminded me again of my own loss.
Isolation: Another big problem is that when you can get your support at home, you don’t have to leave your home and face the world. This can cause you to isolate yourself from your friends and family. Part of grieving is figuring out how to live your life without your loved one. I found myself isolating myself because I wasn’t supposed to go out. I had isolated myself to the computer, not going out and trying to move forward. I found it kept me depressed. It increased the world’s feelings, it just doesn’t understand what losing him means to me. People in the group do. I’ll just stay there
Although grief is a normal part of life, how we deal with it and where we get our support is important. Using online social media sites or online communities for support is one way to begin processing your grief. But knowing when to step back, knowing when to start dealing with the world around you is an important part of this process. It’s up to you to decide if you’re ready to move on.