Friday, June 3, 2016

Digital Connection in Times of Grief

Digital Connection in Seasons of Grief

This week, as we began to disconnect from school, tragedy struck our school family.
One of our middle school students died tragically.  Part of the tragedy is that middle school students were using technology in the midst of this tragic death;  some were at least tangentially aware of what was happening. I grieve for the loss of one student but grieve perhaps even more for those students who are aware of the situation and have yet to share this information with their families. Thankfully, our school is offering grief counseling for students, families, and staff members. The paradox of our digital connection is that it can keep us both closer and further away from each other all the while making it much easier to provide assistance during a season of grief.

So, how can our digital connection during seasons of grief keep us both closer and further away from each other?  Several faculty members waited at the hospital and visited with the family the day after the tragedy. We talked in hushed tones about our experiences with life and death while the details of planning a funeral swirled into and out of our conversations. Families are now able to Facetime, Skype,  and Google Hangout. Cousins and long-lost relatives can comfort each other via text, and the multitudinous social media applications. These are ways in which we can be closer virtually.  We were able to provide quietly information regarding funeral arrangements as they developed.  These are also the same ways that keep us further away from one another. We can comfort ourselves with knowing that we reached out and offered assistance in a season of grief without ever being physically present.

Two digital applications that are useful to the groups who want to offer assistance during seasons of grief include YouCaring and TakeThemAMeal YouCaring "is dedicated to compassionate crowdfunding, providing free and easy online fundraising and support for humanitarian causes." Take Them a Meal works by "simplifying meal coordination so that friends can show they care."  Friends and family can show they care with a few clicks and a credit card.

Digital connections continue to be a paradox.