Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Wednesday, 30 May 2007 12:49 UK

Coping with death on the web

By Patrick Jackson
BBC News

It increasingly acts as an outlet for mourning in developed societies but how far can the internet intrude on a very private experience?

Tribute website for victims of Virginia Tech massacre (BBC News website reader Brandon Merkl)
This Virginia Tech memorial site was set up by a Tennessee programmer

Some may regard the idea of messaging condolences to someone electronically as inappropriate but to those growing up on Facebook and MySpace it is becoming second nature.

When sudden, violent death visits a college or school as it did at Virginia Tech on 16 April, it can turn social networking sites into channels of breaking news, and transform personal pages into makeshift memorials.

Facebook criticised journalists for violating the privacy of its users' profiles and memorial sites to glean information about the massacre.

Responses to the fatal stabbing of a 13-year-old schoolboy in Vancouver, Canada, this month prompted different concerns.

Among the Facebook memorials was a forum which named and discussed the chief suspect, a juvenile, just as police were withholding details for legal reasons.

Just how private are the personal spaces of the social networking sites when tragedy strikes?

Privacy through obscurity

"This idea that if you set up a memorial site within Facebook it will be private is a bit of a misconception," says Alfred Hermida, journalism professor at the School of Journalism of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

A computer browser opened at the MySpace website
They will go online and will say things there as if they are chatting in the playground with friends
Alfred Hermida
journalism professor, University of British Columbia

"A lot of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are almost seen by their members as 'their space' but they are actually very public forums," he told the BBC News website.

When Facebook launched three years ago, it was a site only college students could join but it is "now essentially open to anybody with an e-mail account", he notes.

It and other social networking sites are private spaces only as long as their users are not making the news themselves - on the principle of "privacy through obscurity".

"But when something like Virginia Tech happens, you will have information professionals going in to forage and they will find you and you will be propelled into the foreground," Prof Hermida says.

For adolescents, he adds, social networking websites have become "almost like the new playground" but they often fail to appreciate the legal issues involved in an event like the Vancouver stabbing.

"Instead of going to the shopping mall or the gaming arcade they will go online and will say things there as if they are chatting in the playground with friends," he says.

"But once you have written down something online, that actually has legal repercussions beyond just you and your friends on that forum."

Mourning online

Since its launch in March, the website has provided a platform for relatives or loved ones of US soldiers killed in Iraq to talk to camera about their bereavement. website (screenshot)
The website was launched on 16 March

They appear as one-minute talking heads, and their intimate recollections of people killed in action or driven to suicide by their experiences make for both a poignant online memorial and a powerful anti-war message.

In the aftermath of tragedy, going online to leave a tribute, swap messages or blog about your feelings is a positive emotional factor, according to Prof Douglas Davies, director of the death and life studies centre at Durham University.

"In a crisis situation, action is one of the very few things people have as a coping mechanism and in one sense it almost does not matter what the activity is," he told the BBC News website.

But he believes that online messages provide weak triggers for emotional response compared with physical interaction.

"That element which we often see at funerals and memorial services would, I suspect, be absent in the privacy of someone's face-to-face relationship with their monitor," he says.

'Death-style' choices

As author of A Brief History of Death, Prof Davies has noted the progress of mortality though the internet.

Coffin (generic)
There is a sense that the coffin is becoming less visible
Prof Douglas Davies
director of the death and life studies centre at Durham University

Death, he says, has literally gone online in the form of web cameras installed in crematoria or funeral videos shared with distant relatives in some cultures.

In China, there have been moves to encourage people to remember their dead through internet sites rather than actual grave visits.

Asked if he sees a time when funerals are wholly conducted over the internet, Prof Davies points to the "very clear marginalisation of the dead and of death" in the US, a "society committed to life and living".

"In some parts of America, they have memorial services rather than actual funerals for the majority of people so there is a sense that the coffin is becoming less visible," he says.

However, he does not expect immediate family, at least, to stop attending funerals and cremations simply because "people need people at times of crisis".

"Emotion is as much a product of the social context as it is of the interior, private thoughts of a person, and you need the group to trigger that," he says.

Meanwhile the internet will continue to act as a valuable tool for communicating grief, the professor says, adding:

"In a world where many people's lifestyles are related to the internet it would be natural to expect elements of their death-style to be tied up with the web - otherwise life would be so very fragmented for them."

Has the internet helped you to cope with grief? Your responses:

Yes, to my own surprise, the internet has helped me deal with grief. A year ago, I was faced with the terrible loss of my partner, and couldn't see how the pain could possibly cease. One night when I feared I might hurt myself, and yet was too embarassed to wake a housemate for help, I searched online to find a word of advice, some support, that would give me a reason to continue on. I found it: "When we take our own lives, we only increase the grief in the world: by leaving our own grief unresolved, and by causing others to grieve upon our death". I couldn't bear the thought of causing someone else to feel the pain that I was feeling, and knew that that was the reason I had been searching for - reason to live!
S, London UK

My brother died suddenly 5 years ago.We notified his buddies and left his email address open.What we never expected was all his on line friends sending greetings,good wishes for a great trip in passing, and so much more.Yes..we all cried,but the out pouring of love to my brother was just so beautiful we'll never forget it.
Bobbi, Queens New York, USA

I would argue with anyone saying this is society's way of distancing themselves from death and the dead
BBC News website reader in Texas

After my son died by suicide last August, I joined [a website for parents bereaved by suicide]. I was on-line constantly for 3 months. In the beginning it helped me to be distracted in a sense and to share my story with others in the same situation. But after some time it began to be overwhelming. It was too much pain and tragedy. I did not know what else to say to other parents. I stopped participating in the group and only receive special notices now.
Anna Badyoczek, Morenci, AZ

Death has always and will always be for the living. As uncaring as this may sound, the dead are exactly that ... dead. How you mourn for them is entirely up to you. I have not personally memorialized anyone online as no one close to me has died in the last couple of years, but believe this is an appropriate way to remember our loved ones who have passed on. This should not replace the actual funeral but should be used in addition to. The funeral is really for the family to lay their loved ones at rest while surrounded by family and friends, while the online memorial is a nice way for everyone to have their say and tell their story. There simply is not enough time for everyone to say their peace at the funeral but now you can write it on a blog or internet posting for as long as that site is up and functioning. I would argue with anyone saying this is society's way of distancing themselves from death and the dead, and instead believe that this is an example of how modern technology is bringing us closer together.
William, Texas, USA

Yes!!! I lost my husband in Dec 06 to a brain tumor and was left with four children under ten. So getting out everyday can not only be a real effort, but quite stressful at times. Sometimes you can go days without have a adult conversation. I joined The Way Foundation (Widowed and Young) about six weeks ago. This has been a lifeline and I have enjoyed many on-line chats and a discussion forum where I can off load. I have also made some friends who understand me Fully, unless you have been through an experience yourself, you cannot understand fully...
Eileen Sherborne, Bristol, England

Much use of the internet for so-called grieving is actually the opposite - by creating these sites people are seeking to create a virtual continuation of the subjects life, effectively pretending that they are still alive in some way, which actually prevents them coming to terms with the loss. It is the technological equivalent to parents who keep their dead child's room exactly as it was left, or people who spend hours every day at a grave to the neglect of their living friends and family.
Peter Clarke, Auckland, NZ

I lost 6 membrs of my family in 26 months. I am now pretty much alone, all of the people who shaped my world as a child are gone. I "accidently" connected with a cousin I had never met, on-line and though we may never meet face to face we are close friends and because she is family I no longer feel so terribly alone and abandoned in this world.
Sundi Rogers, olympia, usa

I am all for online bereavement. People in person offered all kinds of help and encouragement to me, but the words and help evaporated as the breath they used to speak it cooled. I logged on anytime day or night and connected with others gong through similar experiences. I cried and vented, shared things that help me cope, simple things I discovered everyday. Others did the same, and it is helpful beyond measure.
Minnie, Florida USA

My son William was killed in a car accident at age 18 on 12/9/06. He left a 6 month old son. We used his MySpace for people to write "to him" and put down thoughts, feelings, tears, joy. It was nice to see his pictures, was a source of strength for me because I do not live near any of our family so I can't readily just "talk" at least in person to them. To read that others feel the same as I do about the loss of Bill helps me. That I am not alone. We live in a technological age, we communicate that way a lot. This isn't inappropriate, it's what we do now. But there has to be a sense of decorum as well, things not to put out there for everyone to read or see. Common sense needs to be used...
Donna King, Madison Wisconsin

I belong to an internet support group, Parents of Suicides. It's been an enormous help to me. Through the group, members from all over the world can share their sorrow and their comforts. I don't know where I'd be without it.
Marcy Carter, Lansing, Michigan USA

I believe mourning and death should be left out of the internet. A couple of months back a lady at our church died and everyone was sending emails and myspace messages and what not leaving a emotionless message saying so and so was killed in an accident. This is a problem we shouldn't be trying to escape the thought of death but rather confront and get it over with.
Anthony, United States

I've told my friends to make sure that such a group is never established for me should anything happen
BBC News website reader

Inappropriate. A girl from my high school class... committed suicide just before the summer vacation kicked in. A Facebook "tribute" page was immediately established hours after the death - not by a friend, mind you, but by a boy who basically obsessed over her from a distance throughout high school. He probably hadn't even spoken to her since graduation. Facebook is strange, in some ways it's highly impersonal, in other ways it can be too intrusive into the private realm. The thought of using the internet for mourning is sickening to me. I've told my friends to make sure that such a group is never established for me should anything happen. Being objectified on the Internet in this way tacky and dehumanizing, I would never want to be remembered in such a way. [BBC News website reader]

The Internet has been my lifeline while coping with the loss of my husband - in my case, specifically Internet message boards for the bereaved. Naturally, these are no more private than MySpace, etc., but due to the invaluable aid of contact with those likewise dealing with bereavement and the friends I have made, I do not mind.
Ellen Dlott, Be'er-Sheva, Israel

Facing the loss of scores of friends and loved ones to the AIDS plague in the 80's and 90's, the internet proved very helpful in handling the sheer enormity of ministering to my community, for outreach and contact, easing the task of staying connected to the living and honoring and remembering the dying when so many were falling so quickly. I could not begin to create 60-odd quilts, but assembling as many online "altars" of pictures, words, and memories as a lasting tribute has allowed me a noble and more or less constructive (albeit melancholy) channel for the overwhelming sorrow and rage unleashed by so much death. The vast impersonal electronic frontier greatly helped to personalize the communications and expressions of anguish and love, and enabled a sharing which has even transformed strangers into family.
Ganymede, Oakland, CA US

The internet has been a blessing to me and my family since the death of my daughter July 2004. We have made two webpages for her and have spent hours in grief chat rooms and researching traumatic death. I have started a local grief group that I found online.
Angela, Casper, Wy USA

After my father passed away in 2002, I set up a web page with some of his pictures, his favorite poems and passages from scripture as well as transcripts of eulogies by family members. Since our family is scattered around the world, we all go back to this website during his birthday, his death anniversary and other occasions when we remember him and miss him. It has come to be called the "cybershrine" especially by family members who cannot travel halfway around the world to visit his grave regularly. It has become a source of solace and even joy as we remember his smiling face and his long sermons complete with quotes from scripture and classical poetry.
Elizabeth, okinawa, japan

In the east, death is not considered to be a private affair--it involves large extended families and circles of friends who are there to support (unsually) the living who are most affected. This is a natural, and psychologically a very healing, experience. Where wakes are held, the process facilitates healing by interaction and communication. Private grieving can still happen, but one is both distracted from it and supported through it by this process. In many parts of the west we have lost the extended family (also community) and its advantages. Along with that we have lost much of the learning that allows us to deal with deaths of people we know, and to support those left behind. So we relegate death to a "private" space, leaving the most bereaved to cope on their own, which is unnatural. Internet mourning and support can help to compensate for the loss of extended support.
Jill, Metro Manila, Philippines

I think online mourning reflects this age when an increasing amount of our lives are online. Some people very close to me are so distant in the world they wouldn't know of my death unless it was online. Indeed, sometimes people never meet beyond the web so it's almost appropriate. Life, friendship and death all filtered through a myspace account. In fact, I see some beauty when someone's online account is turned into a memorial. A grave seems so impersonal and anonymous sometimes, it's like all the other thousands of graves in that graveyard. What flowers or messages you leave die or are swept away. A facebook account on the other hand becomes a living memorial that people can contribute to. You get a sense of their life and who they were. Their pictures and last words forever preserved in cyberspace.
Ruskin, London, UK

My husband died a year and a half ago. Most people found out through email. Most of the condolences I received were on email. During the last days of his life, whenever he was unconscious and I felt helpless, the one thing that made me feel better was putting together a webpage on which I wrote his abbreviated biography and put photos from different times of his life. Friends of friends of friends have written to me about the website. I didn't have a funeral because we divided our time between California, Mexico, and Australia, and our friends were literally scattered throughout the world and would never have gathered all in one place. Besides this, Henry was an atheist so I didn't want a religious service. I also thought that scattering his ashes was something I didn't want to do publicly, but rather I preferred an intimate moment with just my daughter and one friend. For me a web memorial turned out to be a better way to share the grief. Also, in one memorial get-together! I did have, I noticed that you don't have time to talk to everyone and hear their memories, but people do have time to email you individually. I think the internet was very helpful for our mourning.
Rosemary Beam de Azcona, Mill Valley, California, USA

About a month ago, three people I know died. One from long term complications of illness, one from suicide, and one from a terrible motocross accident. although I attended two of the funerals, I could not attend the third. The opportunity to speak with friend of mine no longer in town because of college or peopl I've met online who live hundreds of miels away, but who have become close friends of mine since, helped me immensly when I was able to seek their support. I agree that "people need people," and physical, close contact is best, but I don't know what I would have done without the support of all of my friends. Loosing three people in four days was a shocking, terrible thing...and the internet helped me through the days that followed. In fact, I still speak with one of my friend's sisters, who currently is in school in New Zealand, and it helps to know that she's doing better and can laugh again.
Mike, Longmont, USA

One of the main reasons that the students started mourning in such a way was there was not a way at VT to find out who had died. The students and friends of the students from around the world started connecting via Facebook to find out who was alive. My daughter is a student at VT. She recieved phone calls and texts from friends all over the world, but for people who didn't know her well enough to know her phone number, they could check her facebook. She said everyone from her home state at her school checked in with each other. I imagine they were in panic mode; they used the resources they had available to them. The facebooks were then used as an addition too, and along with, many, many other forms of mourning and rememberance. It was definitly not the only way these students, their families and their friends remembers those killed. It was just a broader method, a method more easily noticed by the rest of the world and the media.
Anne McManus, NJ USA

MySpace, Facebook, Bebo etc. were started around my junior year of high school and the amount of personal information available is staggering. Some people pour their souls into a web page, allowing people to get a glimpse of their identity outside of the web (if they don't know them already), so naturally death causes people to pay their respects through all media available with the most personable being phone and internet. Two of my graduating high school class have since died and I was at the time 800 miles away, expressing my regrets through Facebook was the closest I could get to them.
Will, USA

I set up a webpage... for my baby girl Angelika when she was stillborn in March of this year. I did it because I have many friends and family around the world who were unable to attend her funeral back in the UK. I also did it to keep her memory alive, it gives me focus and I feel like it is a good as "tending to her grave" which I cannot do all the time as I live in Germany and she is buried in the Uk. I really can say that it has helped my personal greiving process immensely.The messages of support from others that have been touched by similar experiances have been wonderful and upifting , giving me hope for the future.
Sarah Taylor, Bielefeld,Germany

Facebook was established when I was an incoming college freshman, and people often say that this class was the first among which Facebook became popular. This website has definitely revolutionized ways in which youth communicate, and also how we mourn. Since I have entered college, there have been several deaths of high school classmates. In each case, a Facebook group has been started in remembrance of the student - or sometimes, we just write on the walls of the deceased Facebook profile, if they had one. This allows for us to know that we are feeling the same shock and sadness as others, without necessarily verbalizing our emotions. Sometimes, spoken words don't exactly reflect how we are feeling and they come out awkward - but online, we can think before we write, and we know that others will see our true thoughts. Facebook also helps us better remember the deceased. We can view their photos, see what their interests and activities were, just like any other friend who is still living. It helps us overcome the fear of forgetting our friend.
Amy, Baltimore, Maryland

I am an Irishman living abroad. I recently lost a cousin who had been ill for many years. She passed away at a young age, and though it was not unexpected it was still very sad and an emotional time for our large extended family. When I first saw messages still being sent to her online profile on, I was surprised; it didn't strike me as an acceptable thing to do in the circumstances. That was just my first reaction. Seeing her friends post messages of good will on the profile really showed how much she was missed, and how much she was loved, and of course, is still loved.
John Harney, Austin, USA

My 6th form recently lost a peer and a friend in a car accident. A group of his clostest friends set up a myspace account in his memory, posted videos of him on youtube and posted messages to his friends and family of their memories and best moments with him. At the funeral, the family mentioned how touched they were by the reaction and how they had learned so much more about the son that they had lost through reading the messages sent from friends. The online outpourings have helped relations within the year and have helped heal many rifts that were occouring. I really think that the virtual forum and community that the internet allows us to create can so often be uniting rather than harmful - or at least in my experience.
anon., canterbury kent

Reader Jan McGirk's memorial blog to her father Bradley Kenneth Schwarz
I set up a couple of memorial blogs as a way to channel my grief [for my parents]
Jan McGirk
BBC News website reader

I first saw online grieving in Argentina, fr a Belgrano website, where you could light a cyber candle and leave a cyber bouquet for your dead soldier. I found it odd and electronically cold at the time (2000.) When both my parents died within a fortnight of one another at Christmas, I was stuck, a 15 hour flight away in Jerusalem. So I set up a couple of memorial blogs as a way to channel my grief and to get the message out about the funeral services to farflung relatives. Cyber-mourning this way proved to be far more personal than the pricey [obituary websites]... We published the links in hometown death notices. There were a couple thousand hits on these sites, and months later friends still visit them.
Jan McGirk, Jerusalem, Israel & Newport Beach, Ca USA

I created a web page for my Father who passed away in 2002. A distant relative in Australia found it and was able pass on their thoughts. I feel everyone deserves more than a headstone to tell their life story.
Steven Driskell, Houston, Texas

No. I would never expose by deep personal feelings of mourning on a public forum. I will mourn with the people who knew the person in question, those who can relate directly to the situation. If that includes some form of electronic media, fine, but definitely not to an open forum like MySpace or Facebook. That's why funerals are by invite only. People generally don't go to the town square and mourn their deceased uncle with all of the passers by. I'm sure it's only the anonymity of the internet that makes people feel that they can/should mourn publicly. There is a strange schizophrenia in being able to expose one's inner most pain and grief only under the cover of anonymity. It also seems rather narcissistic to expose your grief to the world. Why would one assume that Joe Average has any interest what so ever in your grief? I know I don't care about a stranger's mourning process. I will simply move along and give them some privacy. Not to mention that by placing it in the public forum that it opens up the possibility that anyone who had a serious issue with the deceased can simply post a comment stating that they are perhaps glad that the &#&@ is dead I'm sure that will greatly help the mourning process.
Scott, Pennsylvania.

Recently someone with whom I used to play an online first-person-shooter game, passed away after ilness and myself and many of his regular online buddies held a memorial service on our game server. We spent an hour sharing memories and telling stories and ended the service with a volley of shots out over the water. It was very touching and many of us were moved to tears. We knew it was exactly what our friend would have liked. As we had only ever met online, it seemed particularly appropriate and I would be happy if people did this for me when my game is over.
Nick, Bristol England

Rather like Nick, I've experienced the death of online friends. A respected - I'd go so far as to say loved - member of a discussion forum I belong to committed suicide suddenly a few years ago. We were informed of her death by a relative using her profile (which added to the shock) and it took us a day or so to confirm that we didn't have someone playing a sick prank. Once that was confirmed the grief was palpable. We exchanged messages and memories, and ultimately put together a thread of our best memories of her to send to her family. We also got together a collection. When, a year or so later, another forum member died (after an illness) we did similar things. It helped us and hopefully it helped the families too to understand why their loved ones spent time online, that we weren't just a bunch of faceless nicknames. However the internet can be used for celebration too. During the years I've been a member of this particular discussion board we've celebrated several weddings of two people who met online, births and anniversaries. Those online parties can be pretty special.
Anon, UK

My son was suddenly and violently killed last year. I am grateful for the expressions of love and concern shared by those friends of his that I did not get to meet face to face but was able to feel the love on-line from them. I am thankful for those who have shared their stories of grief that I have never met on-line. I think and feel that it is a matter of 'how you look at it'. I read the expressions of love for my son with the eyes of appreciation and gratefulness. Always Respect, Hanifa Jahi
Hanifa Jahi, Detroit, Michigan USA

When my mother passed away recently, we received sympathy cards in the mail and spoke to many people at the funeral service. However, we also received "electronic condolences" through the funeral home website. These were very personal reflections about what my mother had meant to them and, for the family, they were as comforting as any other kind of sympathy.
Stephen Heard, Halifax, Canada

Our friends set up a yahoo website for a friend who was dying of cancer last year. It has continued to exist for months after his death as a place where we continue to communicate with each other and his family in his memory. I find it a fitting tribute.
Paul A. Kachur,

The internet has helped me grief the lost of a very close family relative last year... Since I was not able to attend the funeral or be there physically, I was able to communicate with relatives and friends and even open a site in memory of my lost friend. In a way it made me feel like I was part of it, grieving from the distant however still being able to feel "close" to those who stayed behind.
Tamara Woisky, Halifax, Canada

The world is slowly becoming a smaller place and as the global network grows, one develops strong friendships from many different nations. Some friends (spread all over the world) and I recently lost a travelling friend in rather tragic circumstances. Via the internet and email we were all able to share our grief. Our friend had had a travel blog which was one way of finding out how her travels were going and staying in touch with her. When she died this became a tribute to her memory and she touched many peoples lives as a result. I was very grateful for the internet at the time. It helped ease the pain.
Val Wiggett, Abu Dhabi, UAE

I found the Internet very useful after the sudden death of my wife from stomach cancer. I chatted to existing and new friends on a couple of sites I was already frequenting, including an online Scrabble site. One of my step-sons set up a web-site as a memorial to his mother, which is beautiful and also helpful to us all. More recently I've joined the WAY Organisation (Widowed And Young) and find their email forum very useful for both giving and receiving experiences and advice.
David "Kynson" Atkinson, Carlisle

Subsequent to the VT tragedy I set up a page... to see the response of the college world's reaction to the shootings. The outpouring was incredible. Users of the website uploaded personalized messages on what became the "Wall of Support" signing their names and posting their school logos in memorial. The site continues to get visits from; I hope it will be a lasting picture of the world's hope and pain through the event.
Brandon Merkl, Knoxville, TN

...I lost my father about 15 months ago. [One] website gave and still gives me an outlet for my grief. I do not know what I would have done if I do not have such an outlet. Especially since my father is buried 6000 miles away from where I live. Online websites for the dead is a God sent.
Tayo , London Uk

Griefnet run by a psychologist from Ann Arbor after the death of my mother provided so much support. The service matches people with similar losses, like a person's loss of a parent. In 3-d, real life, no one would even talk to me! People trivialized the death of a parent or had little or nothing to say. Or at best, it was 'death by platitude' as one grief counselor described the current attitude towards people who have had losses. Nancy
Nancy, Chicago US

One thing that this artical doesn't address is the amount of faked deaths that happen in these online communitys. I have in the past been involved in an online game community of some 500 players, and we would see almost 1 death a year faked, often in extremely elaborate ways (even to the point of involving family members to post faked news clippings) and presented as real to the community. The emotional reaction to these "deaths" however is real, the outpouring of grief and empathy is intense, as is the angry backlash when a faker is exposed or returns either to claim it was all a big joke or a miraculous recovery. To imagine that emotional experiences online are less than in real life is naive. Most online communitys make contact in real life, phoning each other, "meets" and sending each other real presents. These communitys are as real and often more bonded and communicative than real communitys. Therefore joys at marriages and grief at deaths are very real and very expressed.
Jessica, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Back in September 2000, I lost a very good friend. We were both working for the United Nations in Timor, he in the West in Atambua, me in the East in Dili. He was brutally murdered along with two other colleagues. Some of his friends who were based in Bosnia opened up a website where people could leave their condolences and memories. Unfortunately, it didn't take long until the website was flooded with spam... Such a pity... I still think of him, miss him. How does one protect an online shrine from cyber vandals?
Kevin Halsey, Split, Croatia.

Has the internet helped you to cope with grief? The answer is a most definite yes. For many of us the loss of a long time spouse or partner is our first contact with this type of grief and the shock of having to face this grief, for the first time, is the problem... There is an answer but we do not know where to look for it, we have never needed to before, we do not know that our feelings, jealousy of others, crying, (is it for ourselves?), suicidal thought, feelings of guilt are normal. One of my answers to myself was to write down my thoughts on a sheet of paper, then I thought that I could maybe help others. I bought a computer and decide to write a website, I had not at that time seen any other sites, and found a web designer to get the site on the Internet, a private site without advertising or trying to sell anything, just to let others know How I felt and to try and explain to family and friends the actions and feelings of the bereaved. The site has now been in existence for 13 months and had about 4,500 unique visitors from around the globe, but, best of all, I have had several messages that told me that my site had helped them.
trevor downer, Barrhead, Scotland.

After 9/11, and more recently after Hurricane Katrina, online communities came together to mourn the lost and to provide practical support for those who were suffering. These communities existed already and they talk together, commiserate when times are bad and celebrate when times are good. I have congratulated friends online on their engagements and seen the first pictures of new babies. Why should mourning those we lose be any different? It isn't going to replace offline sympathy but for those of us who use the internet every day why would we keep this one aspect of our lives seperate?
Sarah, St Albans, UK

In an age where children are becoming de-sensitised to violence and images that display humans in all types of degrading situations; isn't it the real true life experience of being at a funeral that makes us think about mortality and how precious life really is? Attending a funeral online is not real and would not, in my opinion insight those life changing questions. Is this really the way forward? Time and effort are valuable commodities in the modern life, don't the dead deserve these commitments just as much as the living?
anon, Leicester

Students share grief on internet
17 Apr 07 |  Americas
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09 May 07 |  Technology
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07 Mar 06 |  Magazine

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