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Research Study: Online Communication


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Dear Ones,

The following comes to us from an Australian graduate student who is conducting a research study to determine what the bereaved may have found helpful in processing their grief. You are invited to respond to these questions if you wish, but you are under no obligation to do so.

I am undertaking research about online communication technologies and their potential in helping people grieve. After losing my mother to cancer recently, I was overwhelmed among other things to find that a majority of my friends and family used e-mail, social networking sites such as Facebook, and SMS text messaging to express their grief and sympathy. It is a growing trend, and I am interested to survey other bereaved people to learn of their experiences. Perhaps more importantly, I am curious how the bereaved themselves cope with or without these technologies.

There are 12 questions below with no right or wrong answers. I appreciate and value everybody's opinions and feelings equally. If you prefer to email your responses, please send them to me at danielkiwa@gmail.com. Please answer with as much detail as you feel comfortable disclosing. I thank you for what you share and I will make all disclosures anonymous. In other words, I will not publish your names or other personally identifying details.

Kindest regards


1. How old are you?

2. What has been the most significant bereavement in your life?

3. Have you kept any SMS text messages and/or Emails from your deceased loved one? If so, how and why did you store them?

4. Did any friends or family email or send SMS text messages expressing their sympathy as a preferred method of initial contact about your loss? Did you attempt to store them? Are they special to you?

5. Do you still have your sympathy cards from friends and family? Are they important to you? Why/why not?

6. Even if you don't have an online memorial, would an online memorial be just as important to you as the place of burial of your deceased loved one?

7. Do you have handwritten letters from your loved one? Please share why these are special to you.

8. Is an email or phone voice message from a now deceased loved just as valuable to you as a hand-written note from them? Can you explain what you might value more and why?

9. Have you kept or stored any other letters or messages such as Facebook messages from friends/family or your loved one? What about them or it is special to you?

10. How did Email/SMS text messaging/forum participation or Facebook (or similar) have an effect on how you coped with your grief? If one or more or even none helped, please explain.

11. How soon after your bereavement did you access online grief forums? Why did you choose to do this?

12. How important are online grieving sites such as memorial websites or grief forums to you? Please explain.

Thank you again for sharing your story with me.

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I am 46 years old. The sudden death of my husband is my most significant loss. My husband and I did not share emails or texts. Only one friend sent me weekly texts messages of support and love, for about two months. I didn't save them but I did respond to each text. I got at least a hundred cards in the mail. I saved all of them and they are special because they express the pain and sadness of my friends. Someday I will read them all again. The mortuary had a memorial page that people could post messages to our family for about a month. I printed them and saved them. They were also special to me because of the grief they shared with me. It would not be as important as a burial spot. I have hand written notes that my husband wrote. They are special because his scribble is unique to him. The actual scribble is more important to me than the words. They can't be duplicated. I have no voice records of my husband but a yearn and wish for one. Just to hear his voice agin I would give any amount of money. I am not a part of facebook. I found this site four months after he died. I was desperate for companionship and needed to talk to people that understand what I am going through. Most of my friends and family pretend that everything is okay and do not want to hear about my pain. Online grief support has become one of the few avenues I have for support and has probably brought me the most strength. Memorial sites are unimportant to me unless it is someone I know personaly.

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Thank you so much Cheryl. I have a similar attachment to my late mother's handwriting. It is also very unique to her - she dotted her 'i's' with these ridiculously bulbous circles - and it almost feels current, as though it was written yesterday. I wish I had saved her voice somewhere also. What I find nice is that my sister has adopted my mothers old cell number, so that even when I call it today it seems almost as if I am calling my mother somehow - of course this is unreal but the familiarity is unavoidable. I appreciate you sharing this all with me - Thank you


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  • 3 months later...

Hello all - in particular Cheryl.

I have completed my research and would like to thank you for helping to complete my Investigation onto online mourning and memorialisation. This information - your personal reflections on your husband - helped me form ideas and themes for modern grieving rituals that could potentially lead towards more research on the subject. I know your particular methods for dealing with grief did not particularly rely on technology as such, but the fact that you participate at HOV - and contribute to others in their quest through bereavement is reflective of the kinds of behavior and ritual once unavailable. This was the central theme of my research - the fact that the Internet forms a part of larger digital community of mourners - and that these communities are in a sense enfranchised, or united in some cases where their real-life communities have failed them. So, Thank you Cheryl and Thank you Marty. I wish you all the very best and commend what you do for people and each other.

Warm Regards


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