Todd Plitt gives a great depiction of how technology is changing the way we grieve. When referring to attending a funeral via live video stream, John Reed (a funeral director) says, “The new generation has grown up with this type of technology. As we move forward, we’re going to see more people who want to do this. The older people will die off, and their values will leave with them.” This was not necessary and extreme – especially given the topic!
I see nothing wrong with attending virtually if one absolutely cannot make it live. I would hope that this would not end up being the norm. Face-to-face human contact, particularly at a time like this, is very important to the bereaved. If human contact dies off, where are we as a species – too busy to take a break from our digital devices to be present?
Technology DOES have a place in the grief process – memories via Facebook (such as Angelo Merendino’s page dedicated to his wife who died of breast cancer), online blogs, guest books, etc. Just keep it in perspective.
A great example of this is when a member of my church lost her husband quickly and unexpectedly this year, someone organized a meal sign up for several months using meal-train. It eliminated the need for phone trees and increased efficiency – and facilitated sensitivity to the bereft’s grieving process. The griever puts their preferences online: how and when to deliver food (so she doesn’t have to be home) and dietary restrictions. The rest of the community signs up and delivers. The bereaved can have her space but also knows we are here if she wants to talk.
Grief is one of the rawest of emotions where you are cracked open and vulnerable. The process is unpredictable and painful. No machine can comfort you. Comments on your Facebook page help but when you shut down the computer if you don’t at some point have a human witness in flesh there with you to give you what you need – a hug, hold your hand, or to just listen – then you are at best prolonging your grief and at worst exacerbating your emotional state.
Nothing can ever replace mindful, compassionate presence. This is why we are messy human BEINGS versus efficient processing MACHINES.
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