I found an article on theguardian.com website which asks the very question in the title. Written by @NickyWolf, it raises the unanswered question (culturally speaking) about how internet relationships fit into the world of loss and grief.
I don’t think I have much in the way of a concrete reply–though I am working on putting together some material–only to say that I have begun to recognize the need, and that I will attempt to draft and present my ideas on this blog in the coming months.
In the mean time, here is the comment I posted at the bottom of the article.
Nicky, I’m a funeral director in the US, and your question barely scratches the surface of what our increasingly world culture must learn to navigate. What is it to remember? What is it to grieve? What is it to “memorialize” or “eulogize” when the window of experience of a person is so small and for all practical purposes “secret”. What is it to relate when hundreds of different spiritual practices (or non-practices) intersect through the internet at a time of loss? How is a family to know of these relationships? How do they access the resources to let the internet part of our lives know that something has happened and that their grief matters as well? How do you carry on a remembrance dialog (that’s what wakes used to be about) when the network of relationships is so scattered and dispersed both physically and relationally?
I have started one project to help proximate survivors navigate the detachment of cremation. More at www.memrystone.com.
But there is so much more to figure out. The philosophy and the metaphors of loss need a thorough rethinking. Your article popped up just in time to help fuel and reinforce the need to find a new framework for understanding the significance of a final breath, and how that ending echoes in a widely connected society. It’s what I have started calling The Dot (#thedot on Twitter), the final period which marks a bodily ending, but obviously there is so much more than a physical ending to our lives.
May you in time come to know peace, and may you find ways to cherish and pay forward the best of what you know of this someone you have lost.