Sunday, February 2, 2014

Technological Advances to Grieving and Closure

     Losing people we love is never easy. Since the advent of video cameras, families have used televisions to display streams of memories during wakes and memorial services. Often accompanied by picture boards, mourners had a way to remember times, places, and experiences of their loved one. Complicated by distance, illness, or finances, some mourners never get the chance to say goodbye in this way. Grieving the loss of a loved one can be complicated. While technology is not new to the field of grief, we are now exploring more digital options connected to technology allowing for client centered grieving options.

     Virtual attendance at a wake or funeral can allow people who may not be able to attend, but wish to say goodbye, the opportunity for closure. Skype or other live streaming programs can allow for multiple possibilities. Many funeral homes are opening up digital options, for a cost. Another way to enable this feature is for people with smart phones at the funeral to ask the director for their Wi-Fi password enabling Skype or Face time on their phones. This may offer a low cost option to those which cannot afford the funeral home’s expensive offer.
     Facebook has an option to memorialize accounts when people are deceased. Hearing from people who still have access to their loved one’s account, the response has been positive. The clients I have go back to look at their loved one’s pictures and write on their “wall” when special events or holidays occur. They see other posts and feel as if people still care. In a very basic way these people are mourning as a group.
     Online books can be created at sites such as This company works with newspapers to create an online obituary. People can create a memorial site with pictures and create a guest book. The messages left on the site can be made into a book.  Family and friends can not only search by name, but by memorial sites based upon categories (i.e. decades, universities, firefighters, etc.) The site even offers resources for grief support. 

     Options for grief support are changing rapidly. Sofka, Cupit, and Gilbert (2012) have created a book of collected works called “Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe: For Counselors and Educators." This book explores how technology has transformed how people grieve. There is relevant information on ethical considerations, the digital divide, support networks, and education around grief and death. Understanding these resources can help our clients grieve in traditional and non-traditional ways. How have you used some of these resources with your clients?

(2012). C. Sofka, I. Cupit & K. Gilbert (Eds.), Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe: For Counselors and Educators New York: Springer Publishing Company, LLC.