The ways in which we build and maintain relationships have changed with the passage of time. That might sound like a simplistic statement, but these changes have been monumental in many ways, not the least of which is that many of our relationships today involve little, if any, physical contact.
The Many Ways We Form Digital Relationships
These various relationships that exist in the digital world can begin in a variety of different ways. Sometimes they begin with simply accepting a friend request from a friend of a friend, or even a stranger, on Facebook. As postings are shared, we begin to “get to know” these new people, whom we have never met face-to-face. This personal sharing of thoughts, ideas and dreams for the future can lead to a strong friendship and a sense of being part of each other’s lives. In other words, they build into a strong interpersonal relationship. A blogger wrote in The New York Times of a tentative conversation she had with a person in a bookstore that grew into a closer relationship through Facebook. Keep in mind that, according to Zephoria Digital Marketing, there were over 2.38 billion monthly users of Facebook as of May this year! Of these users, 1.56 billion logged in on a daily basis and 50% of members between 18 and 24 login the first thing every morning! While many of these people are checking ongoing relationships first created face-to-face, a large number relate to interpersonal relationships built entirely on-line.
There are other people who we might “meet” through email communications. Where once we may have communicated with others face-to-face or via the telephone, we now depend increasingly on email as a form of communication. As of May of this year, and average of 269 billion emails were sent each day. The concept of using emails (and texts) has not only become a business staple, but a dominant means of social communication as well. (I am sure that I am not alone in having seen people in the same room communicating in this manner, rather than simply speaking to each other!) Certainly, in the business world, many have found that these contacts that began as business communications ended up becoming long standing interpersonal online friendships as well. Just because we have never met these people in person, does not mean that these longstanding email friendships are not just as “real” to these people as other relationships that were built face-to-face.
The digital gaming world often creates relationships built entirely in virtual worlds. I personally know of people who have “friends” from all over the world whom they have only spoken with though on-line gaming platforms. They “meet” on a regular basis, often daily, and “talk,” not only about their gaming avatars and actions, but other elements of their lives as well. A Pew Research study reports that among teenage boys, “video games serve as a major venue for the creation and maintenance of friendships” and that 54% say that they play with “friends” they have never met outside that medium. Another study has indicated that among “emotionally sensitive people,” who find it difficult to make friendships with strangers in the real world, the virtual world of gaming is a major source of their friendships, since they begin with a common bond they share as fellow gamers.
Still another source of ongoing on-line relationships come from the world of Twitter. As of April, there were 134 million daily active Twitter users. Those who utilize this character limited form of “following” others can not help but build a sense of a relationship with those they follow. In the vast majority of cases, the people that they are following are people whom they have never met, and may only know otherwise through coverage in other media. If they are following someone on a regular, or even daily, basis, they often cannot help but feel a sense of kinship with these people. That feeling of a relationship, all be it somewhat one sided, is just as real for them as if they saw these same people on a regular basis in the real world. Relationships can certainly be built in being a part of another’s life and listening to what they have to share, even if you have never met them in person!
There are other ways that you may know someone only in the virtual world as well, and new ways to build these relationships are being created on an ever-increasing basis. That is one of the “joys” of this technological revolution!
What happens when these relationships end?
Just as these relationships can be built in the virtual digital and internet world, they can end there as well. The difference in this case is that we often are left hanging with no idea of what has happened to that person or why the relationship has ended! If it was a relationship built through business emails, we may find out that they are no longer with that company and, because it was a corporate email account, have no way to reach out to them and keep in touch. If it was built through Facebook, we often have no way of knowing whether they have simply closed their account or died if nothing new is posted. If it is a gaming friend, they may simply disappear and there is no way to find out why. Unless your Twitter friend is a celebrity and an announcement has been made that they have closed their account or died, once again you may be left with an enormous sense of loss and no explanation as to why they have disappeared from your life.
Whether these people have died or simply stepped away for your familiar platform of communication, you can easily be left with true and honest feelings of grief that they are no longer a part of your life. If there is no explanation as to why they are no longer where you had regular contact, that can further exacerbate these feelings of loss. Knowing why someone is no longer there does not always make that grief any easier to handle, but at least it gives you something to identify as to why that relationship no longer exists.
If you have found that those around you cannot understand why the loss of this relationship is painful for you, you are not alone!
Most grievers, no matter the loss, feel very alone in the pain that they are experiencing! This is especially the case for those who have experienced an emotional loss in a digital or on-line relationship.
You may have heard people tell you that it is not as if you “really knew this person,” so it should not be painful to lose that relationship. The fact of the matter is that you did know this person, but in a way that others may not understand! Just because you may not have had a physical personal relationship does not mean that this relationship was not real to you. You can certainly suffer emotional pain in loses of this type as well.
One of the problems for any griever is that few people have ever been taught effective tools for dealing with loss. As a result, those around us have no clue as to how effectively support us in dealing with this pain, let alone taking action to move beyond the pain it can bring into our lives. There are any number of things that they might say to try to help, such as “be strong” or “grief just takes time,” but none of these comments address the pain in our hearts. All that happens with the passage of time is that we simply continue to carry that pain with us forever!
How can you move beyond this pain of grief and loss?
Just as the Grief Recovery Method can assist you in dealing with the emotional pain that comes with the loss of any other relationship, it can be used in virtual relationships in the on-line and digital world as well. It is uniquely designed to help grievers deal with the “unfinished business” in relationships lost. It gives you the tools to deal with the emotional pain that comes from the end of a relationship and those things we wish might have been different or better in that relationship. It also gives you the tools to deal with a future that no long includes having that relationship continue as it had before. It will allow you to say good-bye to that sense of loss, while still making it possible to continue to enjoy the fond memories of what it brought into your life. (If, by chance, it was a combative on-line relationship, it will allow you to say good-bye to that emotional pain as well!)
There are several ways that you can put the Grief Recovery Method to work for you to deal with the pain and sense of loss you are experiencing:
- You can simply purchase a copy of “The Grief Recovery Handbook” at a local bookstore or on-line, and follow all of the steps outlined for taking action to deal with your emotional pain. This book is written in such a way that it speaks to your heart, and the authors will walk with you, hand-in-hand through each step, even sharing examples of how they took these same steps to deal with the losses in their lives. The way these steps are presented are designed to make it feel safe for you to take them as well.
- You can check on-line to see if there is a Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialist in your area, who is working with grievers either in groups on one a one-on-one basis. These Specialists, who have used these same steps to deal with loss in their own lives, have undergone special training through The Grief Recovery Institute to teach them how to help and support others in this journey to recovery. The advantage of working in a group setting is that you have the support of other grievers in helping your take the needed actions for recovery.
- If there is no one in your area offering this service, we have Advanced Specialists who have been trained to work with grievers on-line or in special 2-Day Personal Workshops to help you take action.
Best of all, The Grief Recovery Method has been shown to be an Evidence Based program to help grievers successfully and effectively deal with the emotional pain of loss in a University Study! This is something that no other nationally (or internationally) available grief support group can say or promise! It is not a therapy group, but rather a group offering an action plan to move beyond the emotional pain that comes with the loss of any relationship!
We are here to help!
The Grief Recovery Method is here to help you take action to deal with the pain of your loss. All you need to do is take advantage of what we have to offer, so that you can move beyond to emotional pain of your loss!
These are other articles you might find helpful:
About the Author:
Stephen Moeller has been a licensed Funeral Director since 1978. Steve established one of the first Grief Recovery Method Support Groups over thirty years ago. Since then, thousands of grievers have gone through his programs. Steve was the Director for Community Relations at Floral Haven Crematory, Funeral Home, and Cemetery in Broken Arrow, OK, prior to resigning to form Grief Recovery Resources, Inc. He also has served on the Tulsa County Task Force on Infant Mortality, the Tulsa Human Response Coalition, and was a member of “Ask the Experts” on Aurora Casket’s Funeral Plan. Steve is a featured grief and recovery speaker at hospitals, churches, civic clubs and many other organizations, but spends the bulk of his working time focused on Certification Trainings.
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo