Grief in the Digital Age

Comments 8 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Though I decided to publish fewer personal (family-related) posts on this site a few years ago, every now and then there’s just something that impacts me, my writing, and the online community as a whole that is worth sharing and worth discussing. That being said, it’s been a rough 2011 so far, that’s for sure. I have attended a wake, a living wake, and delivered a eulogy at a funeral all within the last two months. These things not only affect our daily lives and our work process, but they deeply impact our state of being.

Bollwitts and Millers
Bollwitts & Millers. Photo: Derek K Miller

This morning I read the news that our friend, local blogger and podcaster, Derek Miller had lost his battle with cancer (that he had been fighting since 2007) and everyone been sharing his story on Facebook and Twitter – as he wanted it to be shared throughout his entire struggle.

I was debating whether or not I should write a tribute to my grandmother (my Oma) as this was a recent family tragedy that is still sinking in for me. I continue to struggle with it. I keep thinking that she can’t read it so why should I share? However looking at Derek’s writing over the years, including his own farewell post, sometimes things need to be said – not for public display and presentation, but for the healing process to begin. Getting the words out there, letting thoughts flow, and preserving memories are worth the effort – even if the words flowing from your fingers to the keyboard only reach a mass of people you have never met.

Oma & one of her great-grandchildren

I don’t want to share what I said in my eulogy for my Oma but I will say that I saw her several times a month, throughout my entire 31-year existence. We were very close. I was with her in the hospital on and off for the last three months, and near here bedside when she came home for palliative care. There is a void in my heart that will never again be filled by the love of my Oma, however I know that she gave me enough in the years I knew her to last me a lifetime.

There are people you meet in life that inspire you. Whether that inspiration is to step into your flip flops and enjoy the sun on a warm spring afternoon, to reach out donate your time to help educate others in any capacity, or to be a better person and commit to doing what you love each and every day. I’m thankful that I know who those people are to me.

There is no lost value or sentiment when an email, Facebook message or Tweet offers consolation. Even if I sit at the computer and allow tears to stream down my cheeks as I type, it helps. It helps to read a sympathy card you receive in the mail as much as it helps to write a farewell message or thank-you note, regardless of the medium.

If you are looking for some worthy causes to support this year, please consider the following (in memory of Oma, David M Kane, Derek K Miller, or someone in your life):

  • BC Heart and Stroke Foundation
  • BC Cancer Foundation
  • Update Derek recorded an interview with Stephen Quinn from CBC’s On the Coast back in November. They just aired the audio and it is archived here. Very worthy of a listen.

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    8 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

    1. Henry LeeWednesday, May 4th, 2011 — 1:33pm PDT

      Thank you, Rebecca. I never met your Oma, of course, but I feel I got to know a little bit about her through your blog, updates, and listening to you talk about her.

    2. Brian WawryshynWednesday, May 4th, 2011 — 1:35pm PDT

      Rebecca, all the best to you. I had a similar year last year, and although I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times this year, it does get better.

      You’re fortunate to have a great support system in your life in John and your family and friends.

      I know for me personally Facebook and Twitter were a huge comfort for me dealing with the loss of my father last year. We can’t always be there in person for the ones we care about, but even a simple note posted on a wall or in an e-mail can bring comfort.

      All the best to you.

    3. BelindaWednesday, May 4th, 2011 — 1:44pm PDT

      My sincere condolences, cancer has touched my life several times I have family who fought valiantly and both won and lost their battles so I know your pain. I found it does help to know there are people who understand and it always helps even a little to talk even to people who are willing to listen, even the ether of the ‘net.

    4. LimaThursday, May 5th, 2011 — 9:28am PDT

      Sincere condolences for your loss, Rebecca. I think paying tribute to your Oma in this fashion is beautiful and helps us all to remember to enjoy and appreciate our loved ones. I frequently talk about my dad on my blog (he passed away a long time ago) and I find that sharing stories about him and photos and memories is really cathartic and in some way makes me feel like he isn’t really gone, maybe just right around the corner. I also actively read a blog called A bean’s life, which is a chronicle of a woman’s journey helping her two year old son battle brain cancer. It’s heart wrenchingly personal, but brave in its honesty and educational at the same time. I’m sure it offers the community of families who have a loved one suffering from this type of cancer a lot of solace. We’re fortunate to have such open means of communication to be able to share. Hope you take it easy for a while and all the best.

    5. RaulThursday, May 5th, 2011 — 11:31am PDT

      Grieving digitally is perhaps one of the most cathartic ways of grieving I have found. I’m in profound pain yet I feel loved and surrounded by people who never have met me (or Derek). Losing a dear friend is a different kind of painful with respect to losing a family member, and having been in that situation twice this month, I relate to how you feel. Much love, Rebecca, and my condolences again.

    6. gigglesMonday, May 9th, 2011 — 9:10pm PDT

      My deepest condolences Rebecca. You are a wonderful legacy,no doubt your Oma was so proud. Sharing these moments keeps her spirit alive. There is so much compassion in cyber space it’s hard not to share those life altering moments about people we love and lose. Sorry for your tough year and the loss of your friend. In my mid thirties I lost both parents to cancer I felt like an orphan. Wish I had a blog at that time when I had no where to put the pain. I find it so cathartic to write it all out. I hope you feel free to share those intimate posts as you grieve. Wishing you love and moments of solace!

      Big hugs Giggles

    7. Pam DruckerWednesday, May 11th, 2011 — 4:12pm PDT

      Just noticed that you and Derek wrote “my Oma”. Maybe it’s a Canadian term. Even in a sad post it made me smile to know how lovingly it was used.

    8. Rebecca Bollwitt, Miss604 Rebecca BollwittWednesday, May 11th, 2011 — 5:17pm PDT

      @Pam It’s German for Grandma 🙂

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