Originally the Internet was a plan for allowing military computers to ‘talk’ to each other. This idea was a spark that caught in social tinder and spread like wild fire throughout the whole world, transforming it in a few decades. The instigators, like people who see a raging inferno race away from a tiny spark that they have ignited, probably never appreciated that purposes such as grief support online would flourish on the World Wide Web.
Unexpected numbers of visitors from groups of people not connected with the military quickly arrived. Pornographers were quick to take advantage of the new facilities. On their heels cam dating agencies, travel agencies and millions of people eager to publish their thoughts in forty characters or less. The nature of humanity was revealed in a blinding new light. The exposure changed behavior even as it revealed it.
Communication is a process in which messages are exchanged between senders and receivers through various channels. As feedback is given there is interference and the generation of new messages. As the Internet developed the nature of interference altered. What had been private and intimate become public. Relationship across continents became common as people exchanged information in the form of images, sounds and symbols.
In some cultures grief is shared openly and socially. People commonly collapse at funerals wailing and weeping as family members gather around in support. They seem to wish to share their grief socially by demonstrating emotions. In other cultures people dressed in black gather stiffly around open graves holding back tears and hiding their faces.
Genuine grief that is privately experienced may actually be more difficult to bear for being held in. It is a deep seated emotion that may incapacitate a sufferer temporarily and then settle like a heavy weight, altering a whole way of life. The ways in which grief may be experienced vary according to an individual’s make up and cultural background but there is little doubt that the word denotes a state of overwhelming emotion.
Close family members are often called upon to support a sorrowful person. They may be grieving themselves and this can be either a source of support or an added weight. In some cases a well meaning person can actually cause more harm than help if efforts to help become misdirected in some way. However, family bonds can be strengthened due to a death in the family, depending upon the context.
Counselors can learn to listen and this is usually accepted as the best kind of help. It helps a victim who might be bottling up dangerous emotions towards catharsis. Ironically, a sympathetic listener has to concentrate hard and talk tactfully and skillfully at just the right moment. Counselors who sit complacently waiting for their subject to unburden herself can become objects of hatred simply because they are thinking how professionally astute they are instead of engaging in genuine empathy.
Grief support online does not allow for physical contact such as hugging and kissing and this might be a disadvantage in some instances. However, such spontaneous contact is often of temporary help. At deeper and more ongoing levels it can become cloying. What is needed at the longer term level is a mix of empathy and understanding. The online communication process is actually conducive to that.
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