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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grief in the Age of Social Media

I had posted about my friend Emmett who passed away last week. It was a rough weekend for me as I was scheduled to be in Chicago for an advisory board meeting for work. I knew based on my itinerary that I was going to miss the memorial service for my friend. I debated missing the last day of sessions and flying home early. I ultimately decided to stay and honor my previous commitment, even though I was distracted most of the weekend. But I was able to still be in Nashville in spirit.

The memorial service was live streamed on the internet. Amazing. That meant that, along with people from Nashville who were homebound with illness, friends in Florida and as far away as India, I was able to still watch the service. I watched my friends sing and preach and celebrate Emmett's life from my phone in terminal G of Chicago's O'Hare airport. I was able to laugh along and weep along and sing along (quietly, y'all; I'm not crazy!) with my friends in Nashville.

I think that society entering a new chapter in how grief is shared. With the advent of blogging and Facebook and Twitter and even a simple as texting, we are able to share the burden of difficult times quickly and often. I was personally overwhelmed with love after my miscarriage (shared via Tweetdeck at the doctor's office) by the encouragement from perfect strangers and from people who I haven't talked to in years. People chronicle their life-threatening diagnoses online, giving the ability to vent and break down the wall that often occurs when going through illness. And in the case of death, social media allows your grief to be bathed in the prayers of those not physically near you. Let me clear that your heart is still darkened by the valley of the shadow of death. But how much greater and more evident is the grace of God when you can quickly communicate with those who love you.

I was blessed to be able to watch the service from afar, even as my heart was breaking that I could not physically be there. The doxology was sung towards the end of the service.
Praise God from whom all blessing flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
A friend wrote on Wendy's Facebook wall that she would never sing that song the same again, knowing now that Emmett is among the heavenly hosts. That is true social media. Being joined in unison in praise.

Please keep Wendy and Quinn in  your prayers as they enter these difficult days ahead. Pray for Wendy's strength and grace as well as Quinn's little heart as he grieves life without his earthly daddy. Pray that they feel surrounded by love and free to grieve. A friend wisely said recently that "grief is an expression of love". It is clearly evident that Emmett was well loved.

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