By Lynn LeCluyse |Catholic News Service
Many people use websites for funeral planning after a loved one has passed away. However, the Internet can also be a source to find comfort throughout the grieving process, learn about funeral etiquette, join a chat room or find a nearby church support group.
Steve Grissom is the founder of GriefShare, a Christian program that uses a website (griefshare.org) to provide information about grief and direct people to seminars and support groups. Users can enter their zip codes on the home page of the site to be placed in a support group at one of 10,834 different sponsoring churches.
“So often people who are grieving look for help on the Internet,” Grissom told Catholic News Service. “Websites such as GriefShare can offer help for people immediately no matter what time they’re looking or what circumstances they are in at the moment.”
Once participants have located a nearby church offering the program, they meet for 13 weekly sessions. Each session features a 30-to-40 minute video from top grief recovery experts followed by discussion. Participants can also use daily workbook exercises to give them a spiritual perspective. For those not ready to meet face to face with a group, the site offers an online bookstore with specifically selected books about grieving as well as an option to receive daily emails of support with Scripture and personal stories as well as links to videos.
“Some people need access to grieving material online in the event that they couldn’t get to a support group due to scheduling reasons or because they aren’t yet comfortable with the idea of joining a group,” Grissom said.
He said people using GriefShare come from all over the globe and access the website at various hours of the day and night. Some 26,000 people visited the website in the month of June 2013.
Richard Paskin, the co-founder and managing director of funeralwise.com said the anonymity of online grieving sites can also be beneficial for those who are not ready to join a support group.
Funeralwise.com offers not only information about grief and grief support but also material covering funeral planning, etiquette, customs and more. The site’s online store sells flowers, memorial items, books and music.
The website acknowledges that grief must be dealt with differently in certain situations. It provides specific material and help for those dealing with death of an infant or child, terminal illness and death of a spouse.
The website healthfulchat.org offers a bereavement and grief chat room. The site points out that “social interaction can help you prioritize your grief and may help you heal faster,” and it also notes that “there may be loved ones around you who, try as they might, cannot possibly comprehend what you are going through or why moving on with your life is so difficult for you.” The option of a chat room offers support from people who can relate and who are are dealing with similar experiences of loss.
As the site’s philosophy explains: “Everyone grieves at their own pace. No matter how long it has been since your loss, you need a supportive environment of empathy to make it through.”