A few years ago, my husband, Greg, lost his cousin in a tragic boating accident. I know that in many parts of the world, cousins go barely acknowledged. But it isn’t like that in Arkansas. First cousins are close. They are like the siblings you get to send home. Greg and his cousin Trey grew up in the same town and lived right next door to each other for much of their lives. My husband’s Aunt Sandy and Uncle Bill were a part of his life from the day he was born. Greg’s mother adored Trey as the child she got to spoil and indulge. While away at college, Trey lived with Greg’s younger sister Chelsea and they were almost inseparable.
When Trey died, it devastated everyone. He was 21 years old and full of life. His life cut short at the start of summer in 2013.
The response on Facebook was immediate. An outpour of grief and disbelief filled the statuses of mutual friends and family. Some family members even found out on Facebook because posts went up before everyone could be notified.
It wasn’t long after that, that I became interested in how people use Facebook in response to their grief. I saw firsthand what a big impact it was having on Aunt Sandy. She received an outpour of support from all of Trey’s friends and family. She became involved in Facebook grief support groups. It took on a very big role in her life, but most importantly it made a difference. She became active in her new role championing Trey’s memory. Not only did she post about him online and connect with people whose lives he touched that she had previously never met, she also founded a charity and held events in his honor which got her back out into the social sphere again.
She is still living with her grief. When you lose a child, your only child, you are never going to get over it. But she found ways to face her grief head-on, to honor his memory, and continue living in a way that celebrated his lust for life and his love for other people.