March 26, 2013

Facebook as a living, lasting memorial

This Facebook page of hers will last forever, and we’ll continue to share our thoughts of her by posting on it, making it a living memorial.

Since its inception, I have seen Facebook used in many ways: for self-expression, debating, celebration and, of course, connecting with friends and family. But I never imagined it as a way to remember a lost loved one or cope with death.

I have dealt with a lot of death in my life. I have lost many loved ones — including two sisters and my mom. It’s a very tough thing, and everyone deals with it in his or her own way. A little over a year ago, my cousin lost his daughter to cystic fibrosis. This is a chronic lung disease that is passed through families. Sadly, it severely shortens the life expectancy of the people who have it. The average lifespan of someone with CF is 37 years, but this figure has increased dramatically over the last few decades. My cousin’s daughter’s name was Christina. She made it to 27.

Christina was an avid Facebook user. She averaged about a dozen posts a day. It was a great way for her to be silly, lively, angry and, of course, to connect to family members — none of whom were local. Post after post, photo after photo showed her Facebook family a great deal of her adult life — the happiness, the pain, the frustration — right to the end. She has more than 700 photos on her account. We enjoyed them when she was alive, but maybe even more so now that she is gone. I have thumbed through her photos many times, and I’m sure others have as well. It’s something we simply would not have had access to before this thing called Facebook.

Aside from reminiscing, I have found her page to be a therapeutic way for friends and family to cope with her loss by talking to her directly, through posts they make when thinking of her. Since her passing, I have seen posts on her page from her mom, her sister, her cousins and, above everyone else, her husband. His are the toughest. He misses her so much and her loss has been really hard on him. But this Facebook way of still connecting with her seems to make coping with her loss a little easier.

We’ll never know what could have been had Christina survived another 10 years with this disease, but we do have a great way of looking back at her life — through photos she was taking and posts she was making. This Facebook page of hers will last forever, and we’ll continue to share our thoughts of her by posting on it, making it a living memorial.

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