When do the Bereaved Seek Help On-Line?

Sandy Lipkus, B.Ed; M.S.W. Grief counsellor, ShareGrief.com

A loved one had died! What is it that causes some people to seek help immediately and others to wait for extended periods of time? Something that continues to fascinate me in my work as an on-line grief counsellor is the wide range of time after a loved one had died that a person will seek help. Immediately after a death people are in shock and at a loss of what to do or who to speak to. Often, they are alone, geographically isolated, estranged from family members, elderly or very young. They are filled with questions and want answers. Doctors, friends or family members often cannot help them and they need to unload their anger, pain and sadness. This may cause them to turn to a trusted friend, their computer. Grievers seek someone to talk to and so they "surf the web". Once finding a legitimate site that appeals to them, they search for someone anonymously to answer their questions. The need to retell their story over and over and share their pain is very strong. This process can often take place within a day after the death.

By contrast, many do not seek help until years after the death. Some cultures and religions do not acknowledge outward expression of grief causing people to suppress their feelings about loss and death. In addition some people are not comfortable talking about their grief or they may not have anyone to discuss their loss. Years later, participating in an event, reading an article in the newspaper, or even hearing a familiar piece of music can trigger feelings and images about the death of someone dear. At this point, they believe that since the loss happened long ago their feelings may not be legitimized by family or friends. For some, their friendly trusted computer is once again the answer. Finding a professional anonymously on-line allows them to unburden their feelings of guilt, anger, pain or sadness. In the comfort and privacy of their own home they can communicate with someone who is non judgmental and will let them know it is ok to feel the way they do.

Whether someone chooses to seek help immediately after a death or waits for a number of years, on-line grief sharing can provide help, support and reassurance. It is an alternative to face-to-face counselling that many bereaved individuals can use as a means of communication. It makes them feel safe and comfortable about their grief.

Sandy Lipkus, B.Ed; M.S.W.
Grief counsellor, ShareGrief.com

submitted by: Sandy Lipkus M.S.W., B.Ed

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