When it came to connecting to the Facebook world, I was a late bloomer. While Facebook was all the rage and others raved about how they found old friends, great new recipes, and shared photos with family from afar, I just wasn’t that interested. However, one day I was looking over my son-in-law’s shoulder as he perused his Facebook page and saw the shared photos from one of his Facebook friends who lived on the other side of the country. The ability to keep in contact with my friends from all over the USA was very appealing to me, especially those I had met while attending The Compassionate Friends (TCF) National Conferences throughout the years; friends that I only saw each summer at the next conference. Suddenly, it was very appealing. My son-in-law put a Facebook page together for me and I haven’t looked back!
The advent of Facebook opened new doors for organizations such as The Compassionate Friends, giving them an extraordinary opportunity to be able to reach out in new ways to bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents through the convenience and speed of the Internet. It is particularly advantageous for bereaved families who live too far from a TCF chapter meeting site and therefore had little to no communication with other bereaved parents, siblings or grandparents. Through TCF/USA Facebook page, bereaved families could connect with others who truly understood this most difficult journey; one that only another grieving heart could understand. They now had empathetic friends 24/7 to bring comfort, understanding, support and hope with the knowledge that they do not walk alone. As Barbara Reboratti, a TCF Facebook group moderator stated, “In the darkness of grief, no matter day or night, there is always someone listening, sharing and caring.”
Our first closed Facebook group, Loss to Substance Related Causes, began in August of 2014. Closed Facebook groups differ from the main TCF/USA open page (which presently has over 154,000 “friends”) since you must request to join the group. From there, the moderator of that group will ask that person a few simple questions, and then approve them if they qualify for that particular closed group. Once they are a member of a closed Facebook group, only they and the other approved members of that closed group can see the contents of what is responded to, posted and shared. What seems particularly important to the closed Facebook members is that if someone is an approved member of a closed Facebook group, the Facebook friends from their personal page cannot view or read anything that they have posted in that closed group. This makes the group virtually private and thereby making them feel freer and more comfortable to share what is on their minds.
One of TCF closed group moderators, Kathleen Willoughby, said, “I think the closed Facebook groups have brought together people sharing a loss who would never in a million years meet in person. We have members from all over the USA and several different countries. We often don’t seem to have much in common, but we all speak a common language and a genuine compassion for each other. We share photos and stories of our loved ones; we share hard days and hard-won smiles. Members come to the site daily for support and inspiration.”
TCF presently has 13 closed Facebook groups which include child, sibling and grandchild loss and varying causes of death such as Loss to Suicide, Loss to Homicide, Grandchild Loss, Sounds of the Siblings (bereaved siblings), Infant and Toddler Loss, Loss to Miscarriage and Stillbirth, Loss to Cancer, Loss to Drunk/Impaired Driver, Loss to Substance Related Causes, Sibling–Loss to Substance Related Causes, Only Child/All of Your Children, Regional Coordinators and Chapter Leadership.
It is particularly helpful to be a part of a group that shares the same relationship with the child that died, such as the death of a grandchild. Betty Farrel, one of the moderators of the Grandchild Loss closed group, shares, “Grandparents are very appreciative of a closed group where other grandparents can respond to their concerns because grandparent’s grief is unique; they are grieving for their grandchild and hurting for their child, and feel helpless.” To which, Jeanne Hale, another moderator of that same group, adds, “The grandparents group gives them a chance to express their feelings without having to worry about how what they are saying affects their children.”
The following comment came from a bereaved mom: “Being a part of the closed group, TCF – Loss to Suicide, has helped me in so many ways. I am able to talk about my child and the tragic circumstances of his death without judgment or any stigma attached because they all have gone through this much maligned cause of death. They truly understand my intense pain and sorrow, the shock and the constant ‘whys’, and offer me comfort and support. It is a safe haven where these people, who are now my dear friends, are all in this together. And I believe that many of the friendships I have made from being a part of this closed TCF Facebook group-though I may never meet them in person-will continue to be my cherished friends for many years to come.”
We are extremely pleased to bring our members of The Compassionate Friends another means to connect with other bereaved families around the country (and sometimes the world) in order to give support and bring hope to each other through the digital world of Facebook. The link to the most current TCF closed groups is http:// www.compassionatefriends.org/Find_Support/Online- Community/Closed_Facebook_Groups.aspx and we look forward to continuing to develop new closed Facebook groups in the coming weeks.
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