Three years ago, I wrote about how much I appreciated being able to use Facebook to communicate with my far-flung cousins and other family members on the day that my grandmother passed away. How strange it was then to see the last few days play out among my friends and family on that same network this week. Not only were there posts about my grandmother, sharing the ways in which we were all remembering her on the day, but it turns out that was also the same week that a number of other things were going on and I found myself both celebrating with some friends, while trying to comprehend tragic news with others.
It a nutshell, it was real life being played out online for people from coast to coast, and even overseas, because we could all communicate that way.
There were baby births. Photos of beautiful babies being born to loving parents. Babies I wouldn’t be able to see myself being so far away, but which I could see online and send my congratulations to the parents.
Their were also posts sharing sad news. The death of a parent, the end of relationships, the stunning, tragic, death of a couple of former coworkers as a result of domestic violence.
But even in those sad stories, there was a sense of community. Of coming together to share our sadness, or comfort each other. In one case, there were memories being shared by former students of a teacher with his family, and a family sharing their own memories with each other, and with friends. There were groups of people who really only knew each other through working in the same place coming together to deal with their own shock, and share ways to help the children left behind in this tragedy. There was the comfort of watching a fundraiser for those same little girls grow and grow, and knowing that so many people cared and wanted to help them. Who wanted them to know that they were not alone, and won’t be alone as the try to make sense of what happened to their parents, and live with that.
Those things don’t make it better, but they help. Much like being a source of support for anyone, in any situation, doesn’t always make it better. Sometimes, you can’t make it better, but you can let people know they are not alone.
I’ve often joked that with my travel schedule, I don’t really have many close friends in Oregon, and it’s true. I have some friends, but I’ve lived here for two years, basically, and I’ve spent most of those two years out of town. I wouldn’t say I had a real deep support structure locally. Online though? I really do. I have long time friends who I know check in with me, and follow what I’m doing. I have new friends who know me online more than they do from real-life meetings. There are people I’ve shared good news and bad with online, people who sent me messages and support when my own father passed away earlier this year, and who wandered around the world with me, virtually.
They may not be right here in town, but they are my support system, and I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful that when news hits the way it has this week, that people who aren’t normally part of my support system, can still share their grief together, and can share uplifting things too.
The other thing that having this kind of network online does, is it reminds us of how much something like domestic violence does affect people around us. I didn’t know Todd or Rachel that well. We worked together for a short time, but that was a few years ago, in a city I don’t live in any more. Years ago it would have been easy to have just missed this news, and it would have been easy to continue to believe that domestic violence is something that happens to other people, people I don’t know and don’t need to worry about.
Now? I can’t say that. Much like I’ve said many times about mental health issues and child abuse, the stats don’t lie. We all probably know someone who has been impacted by domestic violence, we just don’t talk about it until something this shocking happens. It shouldn’t come to that. Everyone deserves to know that they have support, no matter what it is that they are dealing with. Ignoring these issues won’t make them go away, it will just make those who are dealing with them feel alone and stigmatized.
That’s not good for anyone.
Go out and let people around you know that you are there for them. And then, really be there for them.