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     As technology
takes over our lives it also controls how we grieve at the face of death. When
people hear the word media they tend to think of Facebook, Twitter and the News
but do they ever think about the termination of life. Media which can also be regarded
as the means of communication through radio and television; newspapers,
magazines, and the internet that influence people widely, has taught
individuals not only how to perceive death but also how to grieve when it
consumes those we love.

    
With an average of two and a half television sets in each American
household, TV has influenced our understanding of death and our grieving. The
media sheds light on death daily, however it usually only recognizes
extreme/unusual fatalities. Ask yourself, while watching the news have you ever
once seen a story of an average man dying from a heart attack? The answer is no.
News companies have a conscious intent in “holding
audiences with stories that depict worsening trends and threats” as they know it will cause fear and bump their ratings (DeSpelder & Strickland, 2009).
Humans tend to hide this fear of death by reading about tragic casualties
caused by “a bee sting, fireworks, mountain lion
attacks,” simply because we assume a gruesome death
could never happen to us. It disregards the idea of death as a reality.  This concept can be recognized as early on as
within children cartoons. For example, in one episode “Daffy
Duck is pressed to a thin sheet by a steam roller, only to pop up again a
moment later” (DeSpelder &
Strickland, 2009). In another cartoon, Will E. Coyote is chasing Roadrunner
after he set up a bomb to which it goes off and he turns to ash then gets up
and walk away. From not confronting death head on at an early age we grow up
turning our cheek to it and continuing our life as though invincible. Therefore,
when death does strike we find ourselves ill-equipped to deal with grief. People
used to believe that closure was essential to move on, but now the notion for
public grieving and keeping one’s memory alive is helping to comfort
the mourning.

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  Facebook which was developed as a way to
connect long lost friends and form communities is now finding itself frozen in
time with some user’s pages. Many people have
logged onto Facebook to try to reconnect with a long lost friend only to see their
once lively page is now a memorial page. With over “one
million “Facebook ghosts”,
the act of family and friends posting on these memorials is met with no surprise.
In the past individuals have visited their loved ones grave and held a
conversation with them as if they were present. On social media the same act is
being done except now the words are made public (Wernick,2014). This expression
of grief brings individuals together and forms a community in remembrance of
the deceased. It allows for others to share in the pain by commenting on the
post with phrases such as “sorry for your loss”. With the ability to post
on a social media site one’s thoughts for the deceased it is normalizing what might once
have been considered “trespassing on a loved one’s grief by publicly
bringing up another person’s loss” (Morehouse & Crandall, 2014). For
example, one man writes on his dead friends Facebook page about having a drink
in memory of him (Morehouse
& Crandall, 2014).
By doing so he is recognizing his sorrow without upsetting the man’s wife which allows for both individuals to grieve appropriately.
Similarly, an individual who I was friendly with in high school recently passed
away and her Facebook changed as a result. Her page now reads “Remembering Jacqueline; we hope people who love Jacqueline
will find comfort in visiting her profile to remember and celebrate her life”, to which many people have done. Members of her family and friends
have participated in a form of grieving recognized as “visual
rhetoric” or posting pictures of the griever
with the deceased (Wernick,2014). This gives the griever not only closure to
last words that they may have wished to share with the deceased but it also
gives them the privilege to
grieve. By proving they held a relationship with the deceased at one point or
another it gives them the “right”
to mourn and for others to show sympathy. However, this idea evokes a
complication regarded as disenfranchised grief. Disenfranchised grief can be recognized
as “the grief a person experiences when
they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledge, publicly
mourned, or socially supported” (Doka).  An example of this is if a married man has an
affair and his mistress passes away he would not feel as though he has the
right to mourn her loss as the reason he knew her was unethical and their
relationship was not made public knowledge.

             The feeling of disenfranchised
grief is a common theme shared in online bereavement support groups. Support groups in
general are groups in
which individuals share the same disorder/grief and meet to discuss their
experiences and provide comfort to one another. Online support groups
are a little different in that the discussion revolves around normally but not
always, anonymous posters seeking help with their grief. These groups are accessible
from websites such as Forums.grieving.com, in which various sub categories like
“Loss of a parent, Loss of a child and Miscarriage” are
present with numerous posts. Many of these users turn to support groups for they do not have a supportive
family/community/peer group to discuss their emotions with. Others feel
that they may not want
to ruin any friendships or family ties by expressing to them how they
feel. Therefore, by having an online community dedicated to these specific individuals
it helps them to heal. With this cyber community the anonymous factor
encourages individuals to speak as they feel a sense of safety in the group. Similarly,
many people following a death
have feelings of anxiety and depression which may cause the individual to want
to stay in the comfort of their own home making the only group beneficial.  If they were to attend an in person
support group, they would lose their sense of security and have difficulty sharing
their emotions. Along with this,
by remaining hidden online the bereaving may find themselves distancing
from in-person contacts and depending on these forums to heal (Barak,
Boniel-Nissim & Suler). 

      The media distorts our thinking in regard
to how we believe others should heal. It’s important
to note that regardless of age, gender, or even species a loss is a loss and
should be treated as such. When a child dies suddenly it is on every news
channel and a discussion about the tragedy occurs. There are public memorials
named and you will likely find the young child in the local newspaper. However,
when an adult dies unless famous, the death seems to matter only to the loved ones.
“In general our society tends to expect a decreasing intensity of
grief with increasing age of the deceased” (Rando). A child’s death is regarded as especially depressing in that they
did not get the chance to grow old. Therefore, the parents of the child are
expected and allowed by society
to experience complicated grief. Complicated grief is when an individual experiences
intense abnormal grief for a prolonged period of time. However, for the loss of
an elderly loved one the expectation is very different. For example, if a
Grandmother passes away in her sleep just the same as a young girl does, the
assumption would be that the elderly woman’s family would heal quicker than the
young girls. In contrast, if an elderly man loses his wife of fifty years, it
will not matter to him that she was seventy-five and should therefore “constitute a
low grief loss” (Rando). To him she was his soulmate and best friend, age was just
a number.  With that being said, those
who are mourning an adult loved one will not receive the same sympathy as those
mourning a child because they had the opportunity for “anticipatory
grief”. Anticipatory grief revolves around the idea that the loved ones
knew the death was going to occur in the short future. Many people believe that
with the elderly especially, death could be anticipated with old age so the
grieving process should be easier to overcome. However, how each person grieves
the loss of a loved one is unique to themselves.

                By watching
the mourning unfold in the media around us, the bereaving may find themselves begin to question their grief.  The grief process can be broken down into stages of denial, disbelief, anger and
then acceptance. However, this order is not followed for
everyone as grief is an individual process. “It forges a path of numbness, loneliness, sadness,
anger, guilt and regret that can last months and even years. Eventually, the
sufferer reaches a point of existence where the trauma settles and their life
moves forward” (Cornish). This state
of acceptance causes many people to feel conflicted. They may wonder how the people around
them are laughing with friends meanwhile they’re too depressed to leave bed. Quite
possibly it’s the opposite, maybe the mourner feels peace in the passing too
quick and wonders if the connection they had with that person was as strong as those
posting their sadness on Facebook.  My
nanny recently lost her husband and has started to accept his death. A neighbor
of hers questioned how she could be doing so well considering he passed away.  However, there is no time stamp that states
one should grieve for this amount of time and then heal. Some people will cry
more than others, some people will turn to drugs and some people surprisingly
will accept their loss quickly.

                   Grief has existed from the beginning of time,
but as technology evolved so did our views on death and the mourning process. The
media provides its viewers with this image of death that cannot touch them. So when
it does in fact rattle the world around them, they find themselves lost as to
where to turn. Therefore, we turn to where we feel most comfortable, our
technology. We find solace in expressing our pain for others to read and
sympathize with. For those more private they anonymously find help in online
support groups. However, by disconnecting ourselves from reality so often we
fail to realize that human beings unlike the environment around us, are not a
piece of technology. Each person will grieve differently and in return deserves
to have support regardless of the deceased’s characteristics. 

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