Reader A: “Technology is fine. But I did avoid having a cell phone for the longest time. Coming from a big, rowdy family, peace and solitude were rare. So I cherished car time. I didn’t want anyone to find me there. When I figured out I had the power to control when – and if – I answered, I was hooked. I expected the same control was possible on the social networking pages. Unlike email, you can’t decide who sees your posts. And anyone can look for you. I was contacted by a high school classmate. She seemed all bubbly and friendly in her note. Are you kidding? Has she forgotten she lured away my first true love, then married and divorced him?” BANG!
Reader B: “My divorce was ugly. It was also a long time ago. I got help, I recovered. I’ve been very happily re-married for several years. Then I get a note on a social page from the ex. So much hurt came flooding back.” BANG!
Reader C: “Out of the blue, I got an email from one of my son’s friends. It gave me a link to follow to receive the message. What opened up was one of those community pages young people use now. It was a memorial to my son”. BANG!
Reader D was nonchalantly following links from one social page to another. A group photo on one site caught her eye. It included a young woman with a very distinctive birth mark on her jaw, just below her ear. Reader D had kissed that birth mark the day she gave her daughter up for adoption. BANG!
Welcome to the 21st Century. Some of us are being dragged in, kicking and screaming. Even if you adventurously go forth, you can get caught off guard.
Reader A had had her own wonderful life, with loving and long lasting relationships, since high school. Her reaction to the contact surprised and embarrassed her. Why should it bother her after all this time? Ah, funny thing, that unprocessed grief. Someone told her back in high school that she was too young to be so affected by ‘puppy love’. She was told to get on with her life. No one took her pain seriously. No one empowered her to grieve before moving on. So there she was, mortally wounded again – still – and not seeing it coming. Now she has to acknowledge it, process it. Now she can give herself permission to be upset. Now her pain can be validated. It didn’t take long. It just wasn’t something she had on her calendar this month. She is currently doing her homework on another question – Is there anything else hiding in there that she should look at, so she doesn’t get blindsided again?
Reader B had done everything right. He acknowledged that the divorce felt like a death, because it was. He got counseling. He waited to start dating again until he was in a healthy mind set. He had given thought on how to avoid the same problems, including his part in it. He had recovered, damnit! So why did he start bleeding again the moment he saw her name? It’s the proverbial onion and its many layers. He had done everything necessary to heal. Now he had to take his life back. Previously, he had accepted the marriage was gone. Now he had to declare – to himself - that she no longer had the right to any more of his energy. She did not have permission to invade, even his public social page. He needed to say a firm goodbye, and click the button to ignore her message. Then he would enter the information that would block any further attempts by her to contact him. He will not hesitate to open his page in the future, for fear of finding her there. He exercised his power to give her exactly what she wanted – nothing to do with him. And so be it.
Reader C actually thought the memorial was lovely. Her son’s friends had done this out of love, she knew. They were working their way through their own grief, and this was a good thing. The picture album meant a lot to her, and they said such warm things. They told stories of her son that made her laugh and cry. She would have preferred a little warning, perhaps. A bit of time to prepare, to be in the right frame of mind to receive it. It took her the rest of that day to recover. It reminded her of the way she got the news of his death – suddenly, with no preparation time then, either. She would share this experience in the group of parents who have buried children. She would be comforted, and reminded that it didn’t really take her all the way back to square one. She would continue to take one day – one hour – at a time, and they would be there to help her through.
Reader D has a lot of work to do. Open adoptions weren’t common when her daughter was born. The file was sealed. There could be no contact. No searching later. But that’s not what caused her to freeze in place when she saw the picture. After the baby left the room, Reader D was expected to go home and resume her old life. There was no acknowledgement that she had lost a child. After all, the baby hadn’t died. No counseling was offered. No one at home spoke at all of the pregnancy or what had happened. No one told her how brave she was. No one comforted her when she cried through every birthday her daughter was celebrating without her. No one advised her on what to do with the guilt and shame. No one saw that she cried through acts of intimacy for years. Because the adoption was closed, she didn’t fear a knock at the door. But she sure hadn’t expected this. Shaking and weak, she called her pastor. They meet twice a week. Onion layers? You have no idea.
Yes, these social pages can be good, fun, effective. Just be sure to use your brain when you sign on. Open a newspaper any day, and you’ll see a story on law enforcement, the military and employers using these pages. The current Administration spoke openly about meeting young voters there. By participating, you invite a degree of vulnerability. Watch it closely, and protect yourself.
When unsolicited invitations pop up, remember you have control. You decide who gets in and who doesn’t. Think. Are there names you want blocked? Make it so. Now.
If you are the victim of a sniper attack, as our Readers were, welcome the chance to finally face long buried issues. As usual, you will please note that there is nothing here to say it’s going to be easy. Personal growth and healing never are. You may prefer a gentler way of finding out you have work to do, but life is like that. Embrace it and get stronger.
Our deepest appreciation to those who shared their stories. We all learn when you do. Perhaps you spared someone some of the pain you experienced. Here at the Bereavement page, we’re all in this together. We’re here for you, too.
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