Overwhelmed with stress after her mother’s death, a reader wondered if it was okay to email her friends to let them know her mother died. A caring friend felt it was fine and offered to do the emailing. This helpful gesture relieved the bereaved daughter of a tough task.
Anyone who has had to cope with a loved one’s illness or death is well aware of the added stress in keeping family members and friends informed. The flashing message light on the answering machine becomes just another burden in a difficult day.
Technical tools can keep the lines of communication open without placing additional stress on families and friends. One family frequently changed the away message on their answering machine to update their personal community during a loved one’s long hospitalization. Another family chose a young family member as their spokesperson to manage an email distribution list to keep everyone informed; the family member who took on this task used the frequent email conversations as a way for her to cope with a parent’s illness.
A technologically savvy son opened a Twitter account and tweeted frequent updates on his mother’s illness. Not so savvy friends learned how to access twitter so they were in the loop on her progress. Facebook can work in the same way although you’d have to friend everyone you’d like to keep updated or make your wall public, which many people aren’t comfortable doing.
Message centers such as CaringBridge or CarePages offer free websites that connect people dealing with health challenges. You set up a website for your friend or loved one and post updates as often as you’d like. Visitors to your site can add messages and you can choose whether or not to respond. One user felt the entries on her mother’s cancer journey were cathartic and she read and responded to every message. Another wrote the entries at her family member’s request but didn’t answer the posts because she found the task too draining. Both felt the site facilitated communications and made the journey easier.
It makes sense to use some form of technology to manage communications. When you stay connected during difficult times, it makes it easier for others to extend needed support.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.