Online Sympathy & Rituals of Mourning

Over the past weekend, some people I know online and  care a lot about have suffered the loss of loved ones. I've found myself thinking about them and, in one case, saying the rosary (ritual Catholic prayers) for them. 

But what I've realized is how inadequate online expressions of sympathy in the face of grief. It's true that expressions of sympathy always feel inadequate, but especially so when there is so little we can do online. 

Everything I've learned about how to express sympathy by sending a card, making food, sending flowers, attending rosary, funeral and wake, isn't possible.  We know so much about each other and yet how can we express our sympathy without being able to observe rituals of mourning?  

Does it seem trivial and insincere to go on tweeting and posting kinky thoughts as usual? For me, it feels wrong. Yet I also  want to make sure the person knows I'm around if they want to chat.  And besides that, what use is my silence, however heartfelt? 

I know better than most that love can be found, received and sent through these pixels. But can sympathy? And if so, how? 

13 thoughts on “Online Sympathy & Rituals of Mourning

  1. Jen

    I think if we give somebody our heartfelt sympathy, they know that we’re there for them. They also know that our lives don’t stop because they’ve suffered a loss, so I don’t think that they expect us to stop posting or tweeting about kink stuff or whatever else is going on in our lives. We aren’t living their lives, and they aren’t living ours. We’re all separate entities who connect through our words online, but just because one or more of us are going through something life altering because of a loss, it doesn’t mean that we all stop living our own lives.

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  2. JigsawAnalogy

    Before my sister died, I felt awkward about what to say when someone posted about something bad that happened to them. I felt as though any small words I could type would be insufficient.
    After she died, I discovered that all of the small good wishes from people–some of them even semi-strangers–really did make a difference. I can’t explain it, but those words that people took half a minute to write made me feel less alone in my sadness. They didn’t need to stop their lives, or stop posting about the things that were going on for them. But taking a few seconds to express concern for me made far more of a difference than I would have expected.

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  3. Rad

    When I went through several years of family tragedies I never viewed any condolence as trite nor did it offend me that people’s kinky lives continued unabated. I found the continuation a place of retreat and a way to allow myself a moment of respite from grief. It’s when I withdrew from scene life that things got dark. Just my two cents on the question.

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  4. Erica

    What timing. I just finished posting a journal entry on FetLife called “Touched,” in which I thanked everyone for their kind and supportive comments on the photo of my mother, for their tweets, messages, etc.
    It’s a different age, I think. Our horizons are broadened, our friendship swath widened, due to the Internet. Now, instead of bringing casseroles, many friends send emails and tweets. And yes, they mean every bit as much as the more typical in-person gestures. At least, they do to me. Because I can see the caring in the messages.
    Life goes on, and life is for the living. So now, it is not wrong to keep on tweeting about day to day things, and about kink. I know I don’t want to lose track of what my friends are up to, even though I’m immersed in my own little shroud at the moment. The messages, comments, etc. keep me connected. And best of all, I don’t have to talk. 🙂 Just type. Because talking makes me cry, and that’s getting tiresome.
    So the short answer is — cyber or in person, a gesture is a gesture. And by the way, thank you for yours. ♥

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  5. Emma Jane

    The constant stream of tweets, Facebook messages and emails is the only thing keeping me going at the minute. Whether that’s from a friend I know through kink or another walk of life is irrelevant; it all means the same. You might be far away but I know you’re thinking of me. Thank you xx

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  6. Mija

    I understand what you (and so many others too) are saying and I’m sure you’re right. Life does indeed go on.
    I think that’s part of the problem I’m feeling though. It feels right that there should be a moment where everything stops and there’s a focus on grief. That, for me anyway, is the reason for mourning rituals.
    I’m not sure what the answer is, other that to keep doing what we’re doing.

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  7. Mija

    That’s very good to read and know. I had the same experience reading through sympathy cards when my grandmother died. Hearing the memories others had of her made it feel less like she was gone.
    But what you’re writing about is different — the comfort we can give by acknowledging the grief of another. It’s important to know that’s possible.

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  8. Mija

    Thanks for writing this Erica. I’ll have to brave the white on black that is FetLife and go read what you’ve written. 🙂
    You’re right that the world has moved on. I think this post betrays my own discomfort with expressing sympathy outside the cultural rituals I was taught as a child. It’s good to know that what we do online matters in the real life of someone like you or Emma Jane.
    Much love to you too.

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  9. Mija

    What you wrote is beautiful and heartfelt. It helped me understand a lot more about expressions of sympathy. I hope everyone goes and reads your post.

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  10. Mija

    That’s a great thing to hear Emma Jane, thank you for taking the time to let me know.
    And yes, you’re right. You and your family have been in my thoughts ever since you told us what happened. I wish I could do much more.

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  11. Michael

    Mija, I am sorry you have lost, or those close to you have lost, someone.
    When Michele passed I said the rosary every day for a year (I am RC, she was not). But more, I tried seeing the world the way she did (glass half full) rather than my usual, cynical way.
    Although social media is the new way to publish our thoughts, one can perform Acts of contrition or Acts of love to honour the recently passed, and in fact no-one need know except the Universe.
    I assume our pain will lessen and in the meantime, you are well-advised to continue using the forms of social media with which you are comfortable, for any purpose you deem fit. The aspects of you that make you unique, which include your most inner thoughts, cannot be muffled as though in a canvas bag. They must continue to see sunlight, which of course nourishes and cleanses us all.

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