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MartyT

The Moderator's Role: An Open Letter To Our Members

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Dear Ones,

I recently received a Private Message (PM) from one of our members, asking that her name be removed from our membership list.

She wrote, “I do not want to be a member any longer. I can’t find how a member can delete their information. Please delete mine.”

I don’t make it a practice to remove a member’s name unless and until I am specifically asked to do so. In this case, as soon as I read this member’s message, I immediately did what she asked and deleted her name and information. Three hours later, I found an email message from this same person in my Spam folder. I want to share the content of her message with all of you, along with the response I sent to her, in hopes that it will help to clarify for everyone how I see my role as moderator on our site. (It has been my experience that, when one person has a question, it is likely that others do as well.)

The member writes: You might know me better as [display name]. I was a member of your grief forums until tonight. I found no support from you. You never acknowledged or welcomed me like you do others. Why? It’s hard enough to have lost someone, but to be completely ignored by the moderator is insensitive and I found it very hurtful. I know I’m not the only one because I saw where this exact topic was asked of you by another member. I feel I need to break away from people that are hurtful, therefore I asked that I be deleted. I don’t expect that you’ll answer, but I would like you to know the reason why I find your lack of compassion towards me as intolerable. Maybe you can be a little kinder to others, I don’t know, because I see that you welcome others and talk with them, so it must just be me. You just made me feel like dirt. Thanks for making me feel even worse.

My response: In my haste to honor your request to delete your name from our membership roster, I neglected to do what I should have done: write to you first to ask why you wanted your name removed. Unfortunately, once I deleted your information, I had no way of contacting you. Last night, however, I discovered your e-mail message in my Spam folder. Since it includes your e-mail address, I’m now able to do what I should have done in the first place.

First, let me say that I am terribly sorry to learn that you chose to leave our groups because you felt no support from and completely ignored by me. This takes me completely by surprise and shakes me to the core, because the last thing I want to do is to add to your pain by something I’ve done or failed to do. I am so, so sorry!

Before I deleted your name, I reviewed every one of your posts to see if there was any evidence of dissatisfaction on your part. It seemed to me that you were actively involved, posting on a regular basis, effectively relating to others, and quite satisfied with the level of support you’ve been receiving from other members. In turn, you’ve been just as supportive of other members in your caring responses to them. Although I was surprised to learn that you’d decided to leave our group, I had no idea that you were so deeply dissatisfied and hurt. I am grateful, however, that you expressed your concerns in that email message, as it gives me an opportunity to write back to you so I can acknowledge and address how you are feeling, and convey to you my heartfelt apology.

As you’ve accurately observed, I do not make it a practice to respond to each person who posts on our site. In fact, I am careful NOT to respond to each and every post (although I do read every single one of them), because I do not want to be perceived as thinking I am the "grief expert" on the site. I want our members to see themselves as the experts in their own mourning process. I prefer to stay as much in the background as possible, letting our members themselves welcome and take care of one another. Oftentimes I will deliberately hold back on responding to a given post, just to see if another member will step in and do so – and most of the time, that happens. I try not to let a post go more than 24 hours without a response, however, because I want our members to know that I am paying attention to them and to the site. When I do step in, it is usually to respond to a question specifically addressed to me, to validate and normalize someone’s experience, to reinforce a positive step, to offer reassurance, or to point the person to some information that I hope he or she will find helpful. My role is not to offer individual counseling to individual members; rather it is to provide a safe place and facilitate a process whereby members feel safe enough to support and help one another.

I don’t know if my explanation will satisfy you, but I offer it nonetheless. As I read through your most recent posts and the responses you received, I cannot help but wonder if you are pulling away from our group at a time when you may be most in need of the support that is still available to you here. If that is the case, all I can do is assure you that if and when you feel ready to return, you will be welcomed with open arms – and I will be the one standing in front of the line.

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Dear Marty,

I am absolutely horrified that this has happened to you. I am sorry that someone has felt that they have not been supported on this forum.

I have been a member of this forum for almost two years and I have never felt ignored by you or anyone. It has always been my understanding that this forum is for the members to offer support to one another. Questions have been answered and information directed to each one of us from you. Your loving concern and support for our needs shines through. Part of our grief includes who we are as individuals. Sometimes illness creeps in, other losses pile on top of one another and you have always been there to offer empathy and guidance through the tools you direct us to. It is up to us to take responsibility for our own grief journey.

As a griever who has lost my spouse, a beloved dog, and my own illness during these last months I have been overwhelmed my the kindness, love and support from you and other members here.

I read many posts but I do not respond to everything. Some posts are difficult for me to respond to since I can't relate. My grief is too fresh and I am not on this forum to respond to everyone. I have only found understanding and loving kindness here. My heart aches that anyone would think of you as anything but caring.

With Love,

Anne

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Thank you, Anne, for your heartfelt comments, which are deeply appreciated. Still, I thought it was important to share this (ex) member’s message, since others may share her views and not feel as free to say so. I saw this as an opportunity to clarify for our members my role as a moderator on our site.

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Marty, I can only echo what Anne just said. I can't relate to this criticism of you because I've only found warmth, support and empathy from everyone, but particularly from you. Anne has said it all but as she says although we all support each other, sometimes we may not be as helpful to our fellow grievers as we would want to be, struggling as we are with our own sadness. This forum is our lifeline. Jan

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Heavens!

I echo everything Anne and Jan posted, and wanted to add that I have never felt so openly welcomed and compassionately cared about as I have on the this wonderful forum. Thank you all very much.

I am so sorry that we somehow did not meet the needs of someone who is so obviously in great pain and not able to deal with or communicate it well. I wish we all had better skills at reaching out and asking for emotional support and compassion when we need it, and some of us are better at it than others, but somehow, I feel that I may have missed some signals.

Marty, you are a wonderful, compassionate, and caring moderator. Mary is also. I don't see any favoritism or ignoring of people here, but then, we can all be very sensitive to things when we are in deep grief that would not hit us so hard otherwise.

I know grief is confusing and can be estranging. I hope the dear heart that felt the need to leave will come back and give us all another chance. I feel as though I have been remiss as well. To be in such grief and not to be able to feel the compassion and caring here is so sad, but I can certainly understand how it could happen, and perhaps Marty was merely the one target,visible on the horizon, for the grief and anger of this dear person.

I hope the person returns and gives us another opportunity to be supportive and caring. For I believe we are.

*<twinkles>*

fae

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Marty,

You took a bold step and I appreciate that you posted this content. I'm pretty new to this site and I've felt nothing but welcome acceptance and good counsel. I see that there's a core group of members who blog daily and others who hang back or check in less frequently.

Sometimes I push people away when I really need their warm embrace, so Marty, your skilled observation may be right on that this member is trying to reach out for help in a time of deep hurt. That's a tough place to be, I speak from experience.

Thank you for your kind heart and healing website community.

Joey

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Marty,

I read once many years ago something about how to council someone you cannot avoid feeling love for the one you are trying to help. I can't quote the words but they came from M Scott Peck's "The road less traveled". I wish I could find my copy but I had given so many to friends along my life's journey that I seem to have not replaced it last time.. The fact is that your job here is difficult and we all know and appreciate what you do even if our own grief overwhelms us at times. You need a hug too once in a while.

Stephen

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Marty,

I'm so sorry to hear that you have become the object of someone's angst and apparent wrath. You have definitely never been anything but kind and understanding, never hurtful. Please know how much I appreciate your wisdom and friendship as well as that of so many others here.

Luv,

Karen

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To the one who left, I'm sorry you didn't feel supported and validated here. That was not anyone's intent. We're imperfect people but we never would try to make someone feel excluded or "less than", we value each and every person who comes here.

Sometimes in our grief state we are ultra sensitive, when I lost my husband, I sure was. The sad thing about that is we can personalize where it wasn't meant to be personal. We just feel everything so keenly! I do hope you'll consider this and Marty's posts and give us another try.

Marty,

I do hope you won't beat yourself up over this (yet I know you probably will). I know you and you are one of the most caring sensitive people I've met...or haven't. :) I feel I've come to know you well over the last nine years. I've always appreciated your direction and your trove of helps that you are ever ready with! I've often wondered how you do it and still keep up with your family and home, for I know it takes a great deal of time to be here. If I weren't alone and retired, I don't think I could do it, but I try to read all of the posts, even though I don't respond to each and every one, yet once in a while I miss one, esp. if I'm gone that day.

I remember when someone left over me. That crushed me to the core! I can't remember the person's username or exactly what it was over, religion perhaps? I don't know. I try to be sensitive to others, and although I don't feel any of us should be apologetic for our beliefs, neither do I try to force mine on others and I try to have an open mind and really listen to others. Yet it happened. I was shocked, hurt, etc. Sometimes people just misunderstand or misread us and our intentions. Sometimes they're just in a place in their lives where no matter what we say or do, they won't be happy with us. In that case, all we can do is apologize...and move on. We could argue our case but they wouldn't listen and nothing comes of argument. Sometimes people clash with us. I've run across that too. Not many, but once in a great while it happens. Sometimes it's nobody's fault, it just "is". We can, then, only accept it and move on. And hope someday they understand nothing personal was intended and have the grace to forgive us.

But dang, it hurts!

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I am really new here but feel comfortable. I know, as a counselor, you can not answer every singe post. It would take so much time. But I appreciate the fact you have this site available to people like me, who fees so lost. KayC has been so wonderful to me and I fee a bit better. But do not expect you to respond to me. I know first hand how busy a counselor is!

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