Grieving an Online Friend: 8 things you should know about cybergrief

Types of Grief and Loss / Types of Grief and Loss : Litsa Williams


When you saw the title of this post my guess is you had one of two reactions:

  1. Ah, finally WYG is writing about cybergrief.  What took them so long?!?
    OR
  2. Uhhh, cybergrief . . .???

We have mentioned cybergrief and loss before (you may remember it from this post on disenfranchised grief) and it has been on my list to write about for at least two years, but it keeps falling to the back burner.  Luckily I have been binge-listening to the Reply All podcast for the last week (I know, I am totally behind the eight ball on that but my podcast schedule has been tight and it just now made it to the top of my list). All the talk of online gaming communities and online forum friendships (and engagements) and weird twitter has made me feel incredibly guilty as a grief blog that we didn’t tackle this topic sooner.  If you are feeling as confused as Alex Blumberg during a game of Yes Yes No, fear not.  Clarity is on the way in the form of a list of important truths.

8 Things You Should Know To Understand Cybergrief

  1. Online friendships are friendships.  But before we can talk about cybergrief, we do need to establish that cyber relationships are real, meaningful relationships.  Yes they are a newer phenomenon in the history of humanity, yes there are things about them that are different that real life relationships, but that does not mean they are not valid, significant relationships. Whether you know it or not, whether you do it or not, people meet other people and build real meaningful relationships online all the time.  I am not talking about match.com and okcupid style relationships, where you meet online with a clear intention to meet in real life.  I am talking about online relationships you form that remain online.  Just like in real life, these online relationships happen all over the place, with varying levels of intimacy.   I don’t even know where to begin in listing examples because there are so many, but forums come to mind first.  Forums exist around almost every topic and interest you can imagine and people head there looking to connect with people with common interests and find support from others struggling with similar challenges.  No surprise, many friendships and even romantic relationships are born in forums.   These relationships also form in forum-like social media communities (like reddit and closed facebook groups), online gaming communities, online support groups, online learning communities, and on and on and on.
  2. Cybergrief is the natural reaction to a cyberloss.  Just like grief is our natural reaction to loss, cybergrief is the natural reaction to cyberloss.  The grief of any loss is unique to the person grieving and their relationship to the person who died.  In some cases, the relationship you had was an entirely online relationship. That may impact the form and shape of the grief but it certainly does not change that it is, in fact, grief.  There was a great opinion piece in The Guardian a few years ago written by Edward Collier who was grieving an online friend he knew from a cricket forum.  In the piece, he struggles with the question of whether “a virtual friendship is the equal of a ‘real’ one” and what protocol is around attending the funeral.  His questions aside, what seems clear reading the article is that Collier was certainly grieving the loss – his friend, George, impacted his life in a real way and that loss was significant.  The Guardian tackled this topic again in an article by Nicky Wolfe on the death of a social media friend, echoing some of the same ideas and adding a discussion on the impact of grief in a world where we connect with so many people online and stay in touch with, or at least aware of, people for so much longer because of social media.
  3. Society can make cybergrievers feel like crap.  Way to kick someone while they’re down, society.  Sadly, because online friendships are new-ish and not universally understood, some people may act like those relationships didn’t count, that cybergrief isn’t grief, or that someone doesn’t have the right to grieve a cyberloss.  If you have felt this way about a cyberloss (or about any loss) you may want to check out our post on disenfranchised grief.    A quick example regarding cybergrief: in the article I mentioned above, Edward Collier lays out his emotional struggle about attending the funeral.  Though there was a tremendous amount of support in the comments, there were also comments like: “I think it would be nice if you went as a hologram…floating behind the alter” and “No, no, no, no, absolutely not!!!!From what you’ve said, this isn’t even someone you’ve had personal correspondence with, like a pen pal, but a contributor to a forum you’ve bounced remarks off. Why on earth would you want to join his close family at a private funeral where people will be mourning their grief for a lost loved one?”.  Needless to say, mocking and minimizing online relationships is still alive and well.
  4. Societal norms around grieving an online friend are still pretty fuzzy.  This undoubtedly contributes to some of the less-than-supportive comments that can be made toward cyber-grievers, but it also can contribute to one’s own confusion as a cyber-griever.  Questions can come up like, do I have the right to grieve this loss, should I attend this funeral, should I reach out to the family either online or with a sympathy card.   The existence of cyber-relationships is relatively new, so there are no clear societal ‘rules’.  As Edward Collier points out, there are norms to tell him what he should wear to the funeral if he attends, but no norms to tell him if he should attend.  When there are no norms and expectations to fall back on, it is easy to question your feelings, decisions and behaviors.
    grieving-an-online-friend
  5. Virtual funerals exist and can be great options for both friends from online, as well as real life friends who can’t (or don’t want) to attend a real life service.  Sometimes you have the luxury to consider attending the funeral IRL, but in many instances, the online relationship is with someone across the country or across the world.  More and more often families are streaming funerals so friends (of all sorts) can attend.  Also, many online communities also host their own funerals and memorials when a member dies.  It can be as simple as an online memorial or tribute space to leave comments, or an actual funeral event within a video game where players can virtually attend.
  6. You have every right to grieve the loss of a cyber friend.  We wish this truth was obvious but, based on the questions and comments we’ve seen around the interwebs, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  So we’ll be the ones to say it: your relationship was important, your grief is important, and you should give yourself the time and space you need to grieve.  If you are coping with this you don’t need to broadcast it if you don’t feel comfortable, but do keep in mind the more we all talk about this the more it will become normalized, understood, and better supported.
  7. There are some unique challenges when grieving a virtual friend.  I can’t list them all here, but there are a few common examples:
    • You often don’t learn about the death right away, because the person’s real-life community didn’t know/think to notify you.
    • You may or may not have a relationship with their other online friends, or their real life friends.  If you don’t, there can be a feeling of isolation that no one else you know is grieving the person.
    • You may feel self-conscious talking about it.  Though you are distracted at home or work, the fact that it was an online friendship may make it hard to tell a boss, friend, or family member that you are grieving an online friend.
    • If you had intentions of someday meeting in real life, but just had not gotten to yet, you may now feel a sense of loss of that hope for the future.
  8. There is support out there.  I wish I could say there is a lot of specific cybergrief support out there.  Sadly, there isn’t.  But there is some!  When we first started WYG one of our first cyber grief-friends was Casey, founder of the site Navigating Cyberloss.   Though the site is no longer being updated, four years of her posts about her own experience grieving an online friend and ideas for coping remain.  Also, sites like this one and other online grief support spaces have a lot of information and support that can be helpful for anyone grieving, no matter the loss.  Though the majority of people in communities like this one are grieving offline losses, they have often experienced the valuable of online relationships and support.

Thoughts about grieving an online friend?  Leave a comment!  And as always, subscribe to get all our grief posts right to your inbox!

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41 Comments on "Grieving an Online Friend: 8 things you should know about cybergrief"

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  1. Just call me Jade  August 4, 2020 at 8:54 pm Reply

    I have an online friend I had known for nearly a year and they lost their battle with Covid. I am young and still live with my family, my mother does not approve with talking to someone through the internet if I do not know them face to face. I was very close to my friend and it’s only been a day since I learned of their passing. I want to tell my family about my grief but I feel like my mother will lose trust because I didn’t tell her much about me talking to someone. She knew I chatted with some and she’s becoming more open as I become older but I’m afraid of her not letting me make any new friendships online. What should I do?

    • Litsa  August 4, 2020 at 9:12 pm Reply

      I am so sorry for your loss and what you are going through. I wish there was an easy answer one way or another, but there isn’t. I think one option is to tell you mom exactly what you have told us here – that there is something hard that you are dealing with that you really want her to know about, but that you are worried if you tell her she will lose trust in you. Ask her to please let you tell her everything without her interrupting you. Then tell her that you have a friend you made online. You could then share all the safe, responsible things about that friendship – that you know not to meet in real life, that you haven’t shared risky personal information, etc. And then explain what the friend meant to you. Something like, “I know me having friendships online make you nervous, but this is a friend who (insert good things here! I loved playing games with, really understood stuff I was feeling at school, or whatever it maybe). It was a friendship that was really helped me and was important to me”. Then explain the reason you are telling her now is because your friend died and you are really having a hard time. You may even say that you know telling her may mean she loses trust, but that your friendship and the sadness that has come from the loss is important enough to you that are telling her anyway. The reality is, you don’t know how she will react. But if you show her you were being responsible, that your friend was important to you, and that you need your mom’s love and support, that is all you can. It is possible your mom will restrict future friendships, but it is also possible that she will understand you a little more, understand online friendships a little more, and will see you are becoming older and handling things responsibly by deciding to be honest. <3

  2. Hobocharlie67  July 31, 2020 at 3:30 am Reply

    Lost my best friend in the entire world on 13th of June 2019. His demons got the best of him and life got to him and he overdosed. I met him on Assetto Corsa in a drift lobby. We started talking and we became best friends. Was hoping I could meet him one day but that’ll never happen now. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately and really miss him. Rip mate. Slide on.

  3. Yy  July 31, 2020 at 12:29 am Reply

    We were bestfriends for years through online game. But few months ago we had serries of big fights. N now we stop talking to each other. I miss my bestfriend so dearly. But I don’t think eitheir one if us can fix it. I now at level of acceptance tho. I really wish nithing buy proper and happiness for him.
    To my ex best, I’m sorry things didn’t go as we planned.

  4. Lui  June 27, 2020 at 5:42 am Reply

    I’m still in disbelief upon finding out that our friend, one who I met through an online game, has passed away due to an accident at his work. He was such a kind person, and our gameplays with him were always full of fun and laughter. Our group were planning to have a meet up once the COVID situation got better but we’ll never meet him now. I still can’t accept his death, we were just playing yesterday. We were wondering why he wasn’t responding to our messages last night, as it turns out he’s already gone. I still don’t know how to handle this loss, it feels so unreal. I don’t know if I can play the games we used to play the same as before. I just wanted to get this out there.

    4
  5. A.N. Anonymous Sh  June 24, 2020 at 1:36 pm Reply

    My online friend is leaving for 4 years :(. He has really supported me and I don’t want to stop talking to him

    1
  6. Miosho  June 20, 2020 at 12:11 am Reply

    I lost my best friend in April of 2019. We had been friends for 15 years via online, meeting first on Yahoo chat and then quickly switching to emails.
    We both loved to read and loved to write, so we sent emails back and forth of great length and detail. It was like exchanging books back and forth at times: at other times we would send off brief, humorous notes with interesting links, intriguing photos or songs we wanted to share.
    I moved multiple times during our friendship and went through huge changes in my life, as did my friend. We often spoke of how the other person was our source of greatest consistency and the “safe place to land” no matter what our daily life was challenging us with.
    His health was never perfect, but it rapidly became worse. He had asthma and then developed COPD. His weight went up and this made his ability to stay healthy all the more compromised. More was piled on him when he was diagnosed with CHF.
    All throughout his health ordeals, he made time for me and showed concern for what were, by comparison, my puny troubles. He claimed to like the distraction and to be of help …but to this day it haunts me how I never fully knew how bad off he was. I question if I purposely blinded myself to some of it in order to cope.
    In the last 5 years or so of our relationship, he was faced with needing a double lung transplant and , as you might expect, he never passed the assessment by the transplant team. We would put on our cheeriest personas and act like “next time” it would all go better. But every passing month found him more and more often in the ER. My spouse would forewarn me that I needed to prepare and I would nod at that logic…but I was unable to. It was beyond my comprehension despite all logic and every new and worsening incident making the inevitably of his death more present.
    One thing I did that was desperate and stupid was to try to cultivate a Plan B friendship online. I knew in my heart I couldn’t bear the thought of no emails of the same substance or no one to share a song with in that same manner, where we would analyze our emotions and seek out other songs of a similar ilk to share. So I took a person that was somewhat similar to my friend and tried to draw them deeper as a friend on the internet.
    This went horribly, horribly wrong. They weren’t as I’d hoped and I felt frustration and resentment. The attention I gave them was too intense and desperate and made them believe I had a kind of attraction to them I didn’t.
    I cannot stress enough…avoid creating the replacement friend. It’s not possible! But our heart doesn’t always make wise decisions.
    The last time I spoke to my bestie, I knew he was in a care facility and I had heard one too many comments that sounded like what a person nearing death may say – telling me he loved me, I was a good friend, to take care of my health. I didn’t go deep. Regret number two. I was terrified to say ” Are things worse? ” and plunge into sharing every feeling and thought inside me . I know he knew…but how I wish I had made it crystal clear. I was just too scared to give form to my fears. I was selfish and this pain erodes me at times.
    We were texting and he went quiet so I assumed he had fallen asleep. Days began to pass and my emails to him were unanswered. I knew…I just knew. Yet hope remained, small though it was.
    I checked my phone late one night and there was an email from his account, from his mom. He had died when I lost him on that call. He had a heart attack and in the frenzy his phone went skittering away and it took a few days for it to be recovered. His mom was going through his emails to let friends know.
    I sent her off an email about my love for her son and the wonderful man he was, but then I shut that account. It only existed for him. I did speak further with his family and got some details, but I let that lapse as well. All I wanted was him back and to talk of him to them was just too hard. They didn’t seem to grasp we could’ve been as close as we were.
    As you might expect, the “fill-in” friend became someone I grew to almost hate – not because they weren’t a decent person but because they were suddenly like an evil interloper who was miles and miles from being who my bestie had been. I resented them, I was annoyed and impatient with them, and it only broke my heart further to offer a song or a poem or a deeply felt thought to them and have them be so different in their response.
    2019 was a year in Hell.
    I had no ability to attend a funeral as all that had happened before I found out. I write on his Legacy page a lot but that isn’t helpful really. Nothing is.
    There is a HUGE VOID in my life where 15 years of basically daily sharing had created a mountain of memory and connection. I will never have a friend like that again and I wouldn’t even know where to begin to try to “replace” him. It would take 15 more years to build up that kind of love and trust…it would take an amazing person like him…and it would take my ability to see someone for who they are and not seek him within them. So it will never happen again.
    I have no answers and only the suggestions made already – share how you feel and don’t think you can cushion the blow ( during their illness or after their passing ) with someone else.
    Sometimes a day goes by and I don’t think of him and I guess that would be progress except other days I cry and am lost and in need of some kind of healing that can’t happen. It is a wound that won’t heal.
    Thank you for reading. It has helped me to give voice to this.
    I miss you Matt. I miss you so so much.

    2
  7. Miosho  June 20, 2020 at 12:05 am Reply

    I lost my best friend in April of 2019. We had been friends for 15 years via online, meeting first on Yahoo chat and then quickly switching to emails.
    We both loved to read and loved to write, so we sent emails back and forth of great length and detail. It was like exchanging books back and forth at times: at other times we would send off brief, humorous notes with interesting links, intriguing photos or songs we wanted to share.
    I moved multiple times during our friendship and went through huge changes in my life, as did my friend. We often spoke of how the other person was our source of greatest consistency and the “safe place to land” no matter what our daily life was challenging us with.
    His health was never perfect, but it rapidly became worse. He has asthma and then developed COPD. His weight went up and this made his ability to stay healthy all the more compromised. More was piled on him when he was diagnosed with CHF.
    All throughout his health ordeals, he made time for me and showed concern for what were, by comparison, my puny troubles. He claimed to like the distraction and to be of help …but to this day it haunts me how I never fully knew how bad off he was. I question if I purposely blinded myself to some of it in order to cope.
    In the last 5 years or so of our relationship, he was faced with needing a double lung transplant and , as you might expect, he never passed the assessment by the transplant team. We would put on our cheeriest personas and act like “next time” it would all go better. But every passing month found him more and more often in the ER. My spouse would forewarn me that I needed to prepare and I would nod at that logic…but I was unable to. It was beyond my comprehension despite all logic and every new and worsening incident making the inevitably of his death more present.
    One thing I did that was desperate and stupid was to try to cultivate a Plan B friendship online. I knew in my heart I couldn’t bear the thought of no emails of the same substance or no one to share a song with in that same manner, where we would analyze our emotions and seek out other songs of a similar ilk to share. So I took a person that was somewhat similar to my friend and tried to draw them deeper as a friend on the internet.
    This went horribly, horribly wrong. They weren’t as I’d hoped and I felt frustration and resentment. The attention I gave them was too intense and desperate and made them believe I had a kind of attraction to them I didn’t.
    I cannot stress enough…avoid creating the replacement friend. It’s not possible! But our heart doesn’t always make wise decisions.
    The last time I spoke to my bestie, I knew he was in a care facility and I had heard one too many comments that sounded like what a person nearing death my say – telling me he loved me, I was a good friend, to take care of my health. I didn’t go deep. Regret number two. I was terrified to say ” Are things worse? ” and plunge into sharing every feeling and thought inside me . I know he knew…but how I wish I had made it crystal clear. I was just too scared to give form to my fears. I was selfish and this pain erodes me at times.
    We were texting and he went quiet so I assumed he had fallen asleep. Days began to pass and my emails to him were unanswered. I knew…I just knew. Yet hope remained, small though it was.
    I checked my phone late one night and there was an email from his account, from his mom. He had died when I lost him on that call. He had a heart attack and in the frenzy his phone went skittering away and it took a few days for it to be recovered. His mom was going through his emails to let friends know.
    I sent her off an email about my love for her son and the wonderful man he was, but then I shut that account. It only existed for him. I did speak further with his family and got some details, but I let that lapse as well. All I wanted was him back and to talk of him to them was just too hard. They didn’t seem to grasp we could’ve been as close as we were.
    As you might expect, the “fill-in” friend became someone I grew to almost hate – not because they weren’t a decent person but because they were suddenly like an evil interloper who was miles and miles from being who my bestie had been. I resented them, I was annoyed and impatient with them, and it only broke my heart further to offer a song or a poem or a deeply felt thought to them and have them be so different in their response.
    2019 was a year in Hell.
    I had no ability to attend a funeral as all that had happened before I found out. I write on his Legacy page a lot but that isn’t helpful really. Nothing is.
    There is a HUGE VOID in my life where 15 years of basically daily sharing had created a mountain of memory and connection. I will never have a friend like that again and I wouldn’t even know where to begin to try to “replace” him. It would take 15 more years to build up that kind of love and trust…it would take an amazing person like him…and it would take my ability to see someone for who they are and not seek him within them. So it will never happen again.
    I have no answers and only the suggestions made already – share how you feel and don’t think you can cushion the blow ( during their illness or after their passing ) with someone else.
    Sometimes a day goes by and I don’t think of him and I guess that would be progress except other days I cry and am lost and in need of some kind of healing that can’t happen. It is a wound that won’t heal.
    Thank you for reading. It has helped me to give voice to this.
    I miss you Matt. I miss you so so much.

    1
  8. Tan  April 14, 2020 at 10:12 am Reply

    I had a friend that I met online when we were both struggling with eating disorders and mental health.
    We grew incredibly close due to the fact that we could say ANYTHING to each other about our illness. It was less isolating with her. We tried to help each other be safe and work on getting better, we talked about movies and family and what our days had been like for 9 YEARS. She was one of my closest friends, honestly. 2017 I deleted my Facebook, I was doing the usual shutting down business.
    I logged on and went to see how she was coping during the pandemic, knowing that I myself was struggling to find that she was gone.
    2018.
    2 years late.
    My heart is broken, I honestly cannot explain the pain I’m in. I have messaged her sister and I added her so I can see pictures of my friend, but I feel overwhelmed with grief and its 2 years too late.
    She deserved to be happy.

  9. SuzanneU  March 3, 2020 at 7:39 pm Reply

    In 2000 I started mentoring young people online. Between 2003 I lost 3 of them. One had just graduated from college and was newly married to her sweet heart who married her even though he knew she had a terminal cancer. The other two died suddenly. One was murdered. The other died as the result of an accident. Very few people seemed to understand how I could be grieving these losses and finally I went to counseling. The counselor listened to my story and hit her forehead with her hand and said “Oh my God, you lost THREE children! Though you didn’t give birth to them, they were the children of your heart!” OH how wise this counselor was. She assured me that cyber loss was as real as any other loss and in her opinion was harder to deal with because one could not always meet in person, or attend a funeral. There was no “whatsyourgrief.com when I lost these young people. However if you are suffering, please know that talking to someone about it will help you. It sure helped me.

  10. Arlen  December 1, 2019 at 7:31 pm Reply

    When there is no eliminating’, the hand-holding probably the
    most valued cards benefits the game.

  11. Qu_an  November 5, 2019 at 10:09 am Reply

    I just found out I had lost a online friend yesterday , me an this girl met on Instagram an have known each other for 3 to 4 years , we lived in different states but would always talk about meeting , we talked almost every day or every other day , she had her own life an I had mine , we on an off dated online we just seemed meant for each other , but she had a long time boyfriend an I had a long time girlfriend of two years , we kept our friendship/relationship secret due to possible backlash an that we both were seeing people IRL , recently well about 3 months ago or so she an her IRL longtime boyfriend broke up an she was really depressed an sad , posting about wanting to die an depression , I felt so bad an selfish I wanted to help her an make her happy I really did but I couldn’t , but fast forward I haven’t heard from her in 3 weeks which isn’t normal at all , countless text and times trying to call her I knew something was up , but yesterday I was stalking her IG an I came across a comment on an older photo of her it was somebody saying rest easy an rip and my heart dropped , the comment was posted a week ago , so I DM the person an they had told me she passed , they didn’t wanna tell me how but they said she’s no longer here and I wanted to cry so bad I feel like I have lost a part of me I feel so empty and in pain I never got to say goodbye or tell her I love her one last time , I wanted to tell her the News I just found out , that me an my IRL girlfriend are expecting a child , I know she would be so happy and it just sucks I can’t talk to anyone about it , it was always a secrecy friendship , grieving alone is so terrible I feel so bad for her , I can’t even ask her family what happened they don’t know me I just feel like she disappeared an I get no closure from it I just need that closure so I can try an move on I’m hurting in silence and it’s so painful

  12. Morgan  September 26, 2019 at 3:20 pm Reply

    I just found my online friend’s obituary. I knew something was off when I haven’t heard from him in over a week. His funeral is today. I’m going to miss him something terribly. We just joked last month about him looking for my obituary when I lost my email password and couldn’t message him for a while. We were a morbid pair. I didn’t think it would end like this. My heart hurts and I wish I could talk to him one last time. I wished we had that chance to meet. Justin, I’ll forever miss you.

  13. Waffle  September 16, 2019 at 3:45 pm Reply

    My online friend always replies to me everyday on Instagram but yesterday was… different, she didn’t reply to me at all yesterday and I’m starting to get concerned that she might be dead but she might’ve just deleted Instagram or she might just be ignoring me cause she hasn’t even seen my messages from yesterday, I have her phone number and I tried texting her but she hasn’t replied yet so she might be at school right now, I just realized this post was from 3 years ago but Idc

  14. Lauren  September 3, 2019 at 11:10 pm Reply

    Im worried one of my best internet friends has committed suicide. She was/is 15, I’m 16 and have never dealt with any loss at all before, so I dont know how to talk about it and I’m just kind of suffering quietly right now. I tried to tell my mom, but I know she doesnt understand how strong internet bonds can be. I know my friend struggled with mental illness, mostly depression. I watched it get pretty bad, to the point where she couldn’t go to public school and I became the only friend she kept. She told me her dad was taking her to the hospital to recover, and the day before she left she seemed okay.. she promised she’d be back on friday and text me as soon as she got home. We used to text all day, every single day. It’s been two weeks and I know that may not seem like much but it feels like forever and hurts so much, especially because i never got any closure. I miss you so much, Julia. </3
    I always like to end on a positive note, so thank you for this article. And for anyone who's going through this, you're not alone, hang in there.

  15. Linnie  June 8, 2019 at 9:47 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for this post! I had no idea that “cybergrief” was even a real “thing”. I was just searching online for some sort of help in dealing with just such an issue and came across your post.
    My grieving has actually started in advance of my online friend’s death. His death is seeming near but I don’t know how near, and I won’t know until I just don’t hear from him any more. I am dreading this and already grieving.
    We “met” online about 8 years ago, and I really never should have become involved with him, as he is married. I am single. I’m in my 50’s and he’s much older by 20+ years. The age never mattered and we always just enjoyed conversation. He and his wife slept in separate bedrooms – just never divorced. We shared our daily lives, our past memories and we so much alike we would say the same things and finish each other’s sentences. I tried many times to cut off the relationship because of him being married, but it was so hard and he would talk me into staying with it. We tried to keep it as just a special friendship but we do love each other.
    Up until about 6 months ago, we would always chat online every day up to 3 times, always at bedtimes to say goodnight. This has quickly started to drop off now because he’s very tired, now feeling shaky a lot, almost fainted the other day. He does have heart trouble. I’m hardly hearing from him and when I do iit’s not much info about what is wrong…. He asked me to “Never for forget me, baby….”
    I think that his heart is giving out… If it does, I won’t know when or what has happened. No one knows about me. Also, I share a home with my sister who I care for as she has health problems, and she can read me like a book. She can sense me sadness, but I cannot say anything about this because of it being a relationship with a married man. (Please don’t judge me… I know this was not good…) Anyway, I feel like my head could explode trying to keep this secret and if and wen he dies, I don’t know how I can handle it.

    • Linnie  November 28, 2019 at 10:33 pm Reply

      This is a P.S. to my post above dated 6/8/19. At that time, I had a gut feeling that my dear, sweet love, Mike, was dying but trying to not tell me. He had told me the previous December that his heart was not doing well, but he did not think anything would happen too soon. But he wanted me to know at least that if he were to disappear from being online someday, that it would only be because he would have been taken to the hospital and was unable to contact me. ANYWAY – the date of my post – 6/8/19 – incredibly, turned out to be the last day that we had any contact with each other! We had IM’d just a little, and then I had a brief email late evening saying not to worry about him, all was okay and that he loved me forever… I never heard from him again….. I knew after 2 days that something had happened or I’d have had some sort of contact. Days and a few weeks went by… nothing… All I could guess was he was either in the hospital hopefully recovering, or maybe at home or a nursing home for hospice care or the worst option…deceased. I was keeping watch on the obituaries in Toronto where he lived, and also his church’s website for any notice of prayer requests for ill members. Sure enough, near the end of the month, his church posted he was in the hospital. At LEAST I now knew a little something. However, on 6/26/19 he did die, which I found in the obits… I was absolutely heartbroken. I still am today on Thanksgiving day. I hurt so much every day and night… Since we chatted online a lot, I was able to download a few months of conversation to keep, and I have a lot of emails and special photos. I pick out special messages each day to have open with a photo… Maybe that makes it harder, but I want to keep him close. I just hate that this happened. I know people die…. and he was older than me. Just wish it wasn’t yet. Now my sister/best friend has been diagnosed with bone cancer. We have been so close forever…. I can’t imagine life without her, and I struggle with clinical depression anyway – a really bad case now. Not in a good frame of mind, but I’m trying. My heart goes out to all of you who have written. All will different stories, but a common thread between us.

  16. Lotta  May 14, 2019 at 3:08 pm Reply

    I met the love of my life online. We talked on facetime almost every day in 2 years and 4 months. He lived in Spain and I live in Sweden. For 2,4 years we struggled with practical problems that delayed our meeting in real life. I never loved a person so much in my whole life. He was my everything. We decided to finally meet now in april. We longed for that day every minute the last 2 years. We talked about the cafe we would go to. And I dreamt of finally, finally to hold his hand and see in his eyes without a screen between us. But life did not let us meet. Two months ago he commited sucicide due to depression. I will now go to Spain alone to honor him and to hand over a book with his fotographs to a friend of my boyfriend. I will visit the cafe were we should meet for the first time. And it will the worst journey in my life. I totally devasted. My worked so hard and longed so much to finally meet. Thank you for reading.

    • Yana  September 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm Reply

      Hello… Lotta~ Reading your story I see that this year has been the toughest for both of us.
      I want you to know that I totally sympathize you for your loss and that you are not alone.

      I’m from Bulgaria and I lost the love of my life this April in Turkey…We had to meet in the beginning of the month but he had a problem with his documents so we decided to postpone it…

      The accident turned my life completely…He was the man! And he is still the man…We knew each other for 4 years…And we shaped together in that time…we grew together…we changed so much together! We were never afraid to share our biggest dreams with each other…Like a man, like a brother he is my reason…and I have told him so many times…that I have no purpose, no sense without him.
      I just dont understand why he decided to leave so early…I keep blaming myself for letting him go that day…if only I could turn back time and just catch the first bus to his town! If only I had payed attention to his last words! If only I just stopped him from riding that day…

      Today I turn half an year back and see that the same pain is still there and will always be until the end of my life..I am just stuck in one place, I feel so isolated, it’s just like my real self, my true emotions are hidden from the simulation of the daily life…
      I dont know if I should feel betrayed…or unfortunate…

      It’s been 3-4 days since I read this article and your comment…I’ve been thinking of what to tell you…really…I wrote all of my story and then deleted it…I wanted to share it with you…but it’s too much for a comment…
      I dont know if you will ever read this…just wanted to tell you that I’m with you …
      I know that everyday is so hard to go through…I have thought of ending it all too but life is not made to be easy. It’s made to learn from it, to go through it… I just know that If I kill myself today I will have to overcome the same difficulties again and again until getting everything right. This is why I consider life as a big opportunity for developing the soul…

      What I am the most sure about is that nothing lasts forever. I just know that he is gone and it looks like it is forever but it is not! I’m sure, there is going to be one day when every step, every minute in longing and wonder will find its purpose…

  17. Bonnie  May 11, 2019 at 8:58 am Reply

    I lost a very close friend yesterday.
    I say very close, even though we had never met.
    We connected in 2008 on an online karaoke site, hit it off right away and became so close it was almost as if we had met in real.
    We knew everything about each other and, despite the time differences (me being UK, him USA) we would spend hours and hours laughing, singing, joking, talking on cam, until the dawn broke for one of us.
    we made plans, we shared jokes, we confided in each other.
    Life moves on, things happen and we both just went with it, i married, he settled down, but we never lost contact.
    His death has hit me so hard, i feel like i am losing the will to live.
    SO many regrets, regrets of not meeting in person and my biggest regret is not getting on a plane to say goodbye when i realised how bad things had got. It feels like no one understands just how much i needed to say goodbye and to hug my friend, just once, make it real.
    Im broken, my very soul has been torn apart. Cyber grief is real, the friendships you form are real, sometimes feeling more real than any friendship you may have in real life. I may not have physically sat down with my friend and shot the breeze but every night for a very long time we were together.

  18. Maz  February 18, 2019 at 12:18 am Reply

    I am grieving for an online friend I sang with on a singing app. I loved this guys energy and zest for life. He had Faith in God and I am a believer. He always said…I hope you have a happy day! He had just lost 180 lbs in weight and he did a video saying 2019 would be his year as he would reach his target weight. He died the same day. He collapsed with an aneurysm. He was 38 and a 7yr old son but estranged from his ex partner. Life can be cruel. I am questioning why God would take him so young away from his family. His mum only lost her husband a year ago. Now her son.

  19. Loki  November 26, 2018 at 6:28 am Reply

    One of my friends whom I made online from a video game gang, had passed a month ago and I only found about it today… It seemed weird at first as I told them I was restricted from using technology for a month and presumed when they didn’t respond to the given messages during the month (My mum let it go) and they hadn’t responded, even though they were active. I though they respected my restriction, but in the end it made sense. They made a server with their friends and invited me, and within the month, I noticed the server empty out… No one was on and I had no idea why. They video game we met on showed that they had not been active for the past month, and again I thought that since of my restriction they didn’t find a reason to come online.
    I jumped on the computer after school to see if they had messaged, and to my surprise, they did! Though the message was not of one I was expecting…
    I called my mum over to read over it. She asked if I needed help with writing my condolences. After searching online for examples, we wrote a response. I don’t expect their family to ever see it, but I don’t know what I’m to do with myself. They were my only friend whom I played video games with, and we talked with and about some small details about our lives.
    What stunned me the most was I did not take this as I would with ‘grief’. Such as, in the past with animals I had to force tears to make myself realize the something. Something I’m not clear on myself. But here, I shed not any tear, no empathy. Even needing help for condolences…

  20. PatchesForever  October 5, 2018 at 6:31 pm Reply

    About a week ago, an online friend unfriended and blocked me. The worst part is that I can’t think of any reason why. I know hes still online and such, but it still feels as cyberloss. As this is on Roblox, I dont feel that I can talk to anyone because the overall opinion of roblox in my community in that its stupid. He was a close friend that I play with daily, he even said once that I was probably one of the people he mostly played with. This was so horribly unexpected and….I don’t even know why. This article helped me in a way that I can know that it’s okay to grieve, that it’s not stupid or lame. Thank you.

  21. C Allen  September 17, 2018 at 5:51 pm Reply

    I have lost a dear friend of over 12 years online. We spoke daily and I do know he has died, but I can’t find no record of it or what happened to him after he passed away. I would have loved to have acknowledged his funeral but although I wrote to his sister I have received no answer. I miss him so much and my real life friends don’t understand saying well he wasn’t really a friend was he you didn’t know him. I think I knew him more than anyone I know, he would listen to my problems and offer advice I feel so lost right now.

  22. Ian  July 10, 2018 at 2:57 am Reply

    Thank you for this article. I believe… I believe I lost one of my closest friends this weekend. He was definitely my closest online friend. We’d be up nearly every night playing video games and having fun. We had our ups and downs for sure, but our friendship was unique. Or it seemed it at the time. I keep being told and I keep telling myself that he may still be okay and alive and maybe something else came up, but the last message he sent me was that he was having chest pains… and that was 2 days ago. He messaged me every day, even when I wasn’t online. And now my messages are sitting there still listed as “unread.” There have been many times we haven’t talked, but I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that no matter how many times I check, I’m never going to see “Hey pal, how ya doing?” come from him again. I don’t know his family, I don’t even know if the name he gave me is his real name. I just know I feel this sheer emptiness from his account. I’m feeling cyberloss. And it sucks. Trying to cope and trying to grieve. That sucks too. Everyone I know in real life thinks I’m jumping the gun, thinks my online friendship doesn’t and shouldn’t matter as much as my “IRL” ones. But I’ve always trusted my feelings. I’ve seen his health decline, especially recently. I know his heart wasn’t doing so great, he told me that himself. But to think he’s gone and his last words were “Sorry, I gotta call this game short. I’m not feeling so great. I’m having some chest pains. I gotta go. Later.” And like an idiot I replied “Oh man, sorry to hear that! Don’t worry about the game! I hope you feel better soon!”
    Maybe… maybe I helped him somehow down the road. maybe I made him laugh and smile more than he would have otherwise. But it still sucks. no one will ever understand our complex friendship. Only we could have hurt each other the way we did and only we could have helped each other the way we did, too. We were the worst of friends and we were the best of friends. And I’m gonna miss the hell out of him.

  23. Peter  April 8, 2018 at 7:05 pm Reply

    Thank you very much for this post.

    I met Dan online about two years ago when I was going through my divorce. He was a friend of a friend who commented on a Facebook post and we got talking. At the time I lived in England, and he lived in Canada. Up until about 5 months ago we communicated maybe once or twice a week – short conversations but pleasant conversations .

    Dan’s husband died in January – and I reached out to him. I think he valued having someone who wasn’t family that he could talk to and share the pain – and absurdity – of dealing with death. The sense of loss – and – doing a dead man’s laundry! We started messaging every day – and were sending voice and video messages.

    On Friday he messaged me to say he was having an early night because he didn’t feel great. Said he felt all clogged up – his chest was sore and he thought maybe he had an infection or something. I messaged him back to say I hope he felt better – sent a little joke – and that was it. On Saturday – no ‘Good Morning’ message -but I thought he had probably just overslept and was glad he got some rest. I checked at 5pm and no message either – which was unusual so I went to his Facebook page where his stepdaughter posted that he had died in the night of a heart attack. He was 59.

    I’m a wreck – ever time my phone ‘pings’ I think it’s him. I keep checking his Facebook page – but his family don’t know who I am so it doesn’t feel right to leave a message or send a condolence. I’m bereft.

    This page has helped – at least I don’t feel like I’m wrong for feeling this loss so deeply.

  24. Peter  April 8, 2018 at 7:05 pm Reply

    Thank you very much for this post.

    I met Dan online about two years ago when I was going through my divorce. He was a friend of a friend who commented on a Facebook post and we got talking. At the time I lived in England, and he lived in Canada. Up until about 5 months ago we communicated maybe once or twice a week – short conversations but pleasant conversations .

    Dan’s husband died in January – and I reached out to him. I think he valued having someone who wasn’t family that he could talk to and share the pain – and absurdity – of dealing with death. The sense of loss – and – doing a dead man’s laundry! We started messaging every day – and were sending voice and video messages.

    On Friday he messaged me to say he was having an early night because he didn’t feel great. Said he felt all clogged up – his chest was sore and he thought maybe he had an infection or something. I messaged him back to say I hope he felt better – sent a little joke – and that was it. On Saturday – no ‘Good Morning’ message -but I thought he had probably just overslept and was glad he got some rest. I checked at 5pm and no message either – which was unusual so I went to his Facebook page where his stepdaughter posted that he had died in the night of a heart attack. He was 59.

    I’m a wreck – ever time my phone ‘pings’ I think it’s him. I keep checking his Facebook page – but his family don’t know who I am so it doesn’t feel right to leave a message or send a condolence. I’m bereft.

    This page has helped – at least I don’t feel like I’m wrong for feeling this loss so deeply.

  25. Tracy  March 19, 2018 at 12:14 am Reply

    Thank you. I now know my grief is real. This article makes me understand what I’m feeling, because the pain bottled up inside me are finally slipping down my cheeks in tears.
    I was an awkward child. Shy, extremely shy to the point where loneliness was all I had felt during my childhood and through the course of my middle school years because I had feared to open my mouth and speak in the fear that I will make a fool of. myself. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this because I was expected to be a perfect child. So I always cry in secret.
    But one day I log into into my account and played a game. It became my second life, and it is with great eagerness that I log on everyday to enjoy a life where I had people support me. The first person I met on this game was Cotton, or as I call her by her real name- Tess. She and her best friend, Peacock, aka Tiffany, were the funniest, nicest, and strongest player in the game. It wasn’t long until we were inseparable Tiffany taught me the skills I needed to become the 5th powerful sniper. She taught me dedication, loyalty, humility, and most of all- to put my best effort forward. Tess…she was the funniest person. She gave me motivation when Tiffany was defeating me over and over again. She taught me how to my trustworthy and how to make others feel included. I was so happy for 4 years. 4 years of my childhood were bliss and I used the game to escape from the horrible reality of this cruel world.
    But…
    Tess died of cancer. She has been fighting a losing battle against it for almost 2 years. 2 years of which I could’ve her so much memories. She didn’t tell me or Tiffany about her illness. If I had known…if I had known about what she was going through, I could’ve made her final moment happier. But the last time she asked if I was interested in training, I told her no because I had to do my homework. If I had said yes, I could’ve spent 15 mins with her. Could’ve spent 15 minutes of my life to make her happy for the last time. So instead, she texted me “Good night.”
    Hah, I laugh bitterly at this. Good night is suppose to lead to good morning, but no matter how much time I check the app, there was never a good morning from her. Tiff, well… I have never seen her again after Tess’s death.
    I couldn’t stop crying for the past month. My dearest friends who I had spent hours together laughing, teasing, crying, joking, dancing, singing… all the memories that now stab at my heart with heaviness whenever I think about it, and all of the people who made me smile freely are gone. So I go back to acting.
    No one could understand what I’m going to. So I put on a mask and force my entire body, my entire being, my entire soul, to smile.
    But I must say thank you to my friends who have helped me through every step of the way. You may no longer be here with me Tess and Tiffany, but there are no one who could steal your spot in my life. One day I’ll see the both of you again, and one day I’ll laugh with you again, my dearest friends. I miss the both of you so much it hurts.

  26. Tracy  March 19, 2018 at 12:14 am Reply

    Thank you. I now know my grief is real. This article makes me understand what I’m feeling, because the pain bottled up inside me are finally slipping down my cheeks in tears.
    I was an awkward child. Shy, extremely shy to the point where loneliness was all I had felt during my childhood and through the course of my middle school years because I had feared to open my mouth and speak in the fear that I will make a fool of. myself. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this because I was expected to be a perfect child. So I always cry in secret.
    But one day I log into into my account and played a game. It became my second life, and it is with great eagerness that I log on everyday to enjoy a life where I had people support me. The first person I met on this game was Cotton, or as I call her by her real name- Tess. She and her best friend, Peacock, aka Tiffany, were the funniest, nicest, and strongest player in the game. It wasn’t long until we were inseparable Tiffany taught me the skills I needed to become the 5th powerful sniper. She taught me dedication, loyalty, humility, and most of all- to put my best effort forward. Tess…she was the funniest person. She gave me motivation when Tiffany was defeating me over and over again. She taught me how to my trustworthy and how to make others feel included. I was so happy for 4 years. 4 years of my childhood were bliss and I used the game to escape from the horrible reality of this cruel world.
    But…
    Tess died of cancer. She has been fighting a losing battle against it for almost 2 years. 2 years of which I could’ve her so much memories. She didn’t tell me or Tiffany about her illness. If I had known…if I had known about what she was going through, I could’ve made her final moment happier. But the last time she asked if I was interested in training, I told her no because I had to do my homework. If I had said yes, I could’ve spent 15 mins with her. Could’ve spent 15 minutes of my life to make her happy for the last time. So instead, she texted me “Good night.”
    Hah, I laugh bitterly at this. Good night is suppose to lead to good morning, but no matter how much time I check the app, there was never a good morning from her. Tiff, well… I have never seen her again after Tess’s death.
    I couldn’t stop crying for the past month. My dearest friends who I had spent hours together laughing, teasing, crying, joking, dancing, singing… all the memories that now stab at my heart with heaviness whenever I think about it, and all of the people who made me smile freely are gone. So I go back to acting.
    No one could understand what I’m going to. So I put on a mask and force my entire body, my entire being, my entire soul, to smile.
    But I must say thank you to my friends who have helped me through every step of the way. You may no longer be here with me Tess and Tiffany, but there are no one who could steal your spot in my life. One day I’ll see the both of you again, and one day I’ll laugh with you again, my dearest friends. I miss the both of you so much it hurts.

  27. Lexa  February 3, 2018 at 6:05 am Reply

    I lost one of my best friends today. I’ve never met him, but I loved him like a brother. He’s always going to be in my heart. 15 is too young an age for anyone to go, but he still did. This article helped me a lot. Thank you.
    Something that should be recognised as well is that a lot of young people on the internet have mental health issues and reach out to other people on the internet to find friendships. Now more than ever, I realise just how much people my age are hurting.

  28. Lexa  February 3, 2018 at 6:05 am Reply

    I lost one of my best friends today. I’ve never met him, but I loved him like a brother. He’s always going to be in my heart. 15 is too young an age for anyone to go, but he still did. This article helped me a lot. Thank you.
    Something that should be recognised as well is that a lot of young people on the internet have mental health issues and reach out to other people on the internet to find friendships. Now more than ever, I realise just how much people my age are hurting.

  29. Aibon  February 8, 2017 at 11:53 pm Reply

    Cybergrief is a thing now I wanY to kill myself and join my brother more than ever

    • Eleanor  February 9, 2017 at 9:00 am Reply

      Yeah, I know it can be hard to relate to the source of other people’s grief, especially when you are personally grieving the death of someone like a sibling or another family member. Grief comes in different forms and different intensities, but the fact of the matter is that you can grieve any relationship and any loss.

      I think your comment may have been sarcastic, but regardless we do always want to take the opportunity to remind all our readers that if anyone is ever considering hurting themselves to please seek help right away. You can walk into any emergency room or call 911 (if you are in the US). You can also call the suicide hotline in the US at 18002738255 or in the UK at 44 (0) 8457 90 90 90. If you are elsewhere just google suicide hotline and your country name.

      My heart goes out to you as you continue to grieve the death of your brother. Take care of yourself today.

  30. Frank  February 4, 2017 at 11:40 am Reply

    I sincerely appreciate your article on cybergrief. Your observations remind me to check with grieving clients as to their family member’s online activity and whether steps to notify cyber friends or fellow players of the person’s death. There’s a good article in reference to online gaming funerals and memorials at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/online-funerals-gamers-friends-never-met-gaming-death-social-network-world-of-warcraft-skyrim-a7507836.html. Thank you for all of your input.

  31. Anthony  November 30, 2016 at 9:34 am Reply

    Hi,

    Thanks for posting this. I was in a 12 year relationship with a woman online who I never physically met, but loved all the same. There were many complicating factors and reasons behind why we never met, and I have alot of guilt and regret about it. I’ve never classified what I am feeling specifically as ‘cyber grief’, because it so many ways, it was as real as a relationship can be. But we did meet online so I guess it is technically accurate in some respects and I can relate to alot of the things mentioned, including loss of hope of a future between us and being unable to properly grieve with other people that knew her.

    • Kristine  June 15, 2019 at 1:45 pm Reply

      I understand what your feeling. There is also the greif of not being able to meet even when your friend is alive due to those complicating issues. Then the loss when they are gone.

  32. Yam Kahol  November 3, 2016 at 5:11 pm Reply

    Thanks Litsa! To help with normalising, like you say, let me share that I grieved for an online person who I never met. I like this article, because it helps to make sense of this thing which isn’t yet a spoken norm in our culture. I felt I was being “silly” at the time. It was a dear boy called Caleb from a Youtube channel called Bratayley. I used to watch their daily uploads as a way of zoning out each evening. His death was sudden and happened when I was also grieving for my father, and somehow it just hit me for six. I think the hard thing is that it is not easy to vent your grief, or get support, when it is an online grief. Sometimes the only people who know about it are online, which can have some minuses.

  33. Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC  November 3, 2016 at 1:05 pm Reply

    Thanks so much for posting about this important topic, Litsa. As you say, cybergrief is just as real, and in many instances, just as painful, as any other loss, depending on the significance of the relationship with the one who is lost ~ and too often it goes unrecognized or is criticized, discounted and even ridiculed.

    • Rea Ginsberg  November 3, 2016 at 1:55 pm Reply

      So true, Marty! An important comment. Thank you.

  34. Raymond  November 3, 2016 at 9:29 am Reply

    I’m two months out from my wife passing. Twenty five years of bliss. Research is my trade somewhat and your site is informative. Grief touches all cultures. It would be neat to have an article touching on the rituals of other cultures. In any event, much of my research informs me that the riddle? of grief is solved in the journey through time. Time also touches all cultures. Grief is in our DNA. We are a social animal. The many books I have read and websites dance around it. Time equals change. Personally, it seems microscopic at this juncture. Much of the psychology of it is common sense and eventually you will bounce off enough people (both good and bad) to make your own sense of it. Tragically, some don’t bump into enough people and end up bumping into themselves with catastrophic results. Time and company, at least from what I’ve distilled is the path to carry the weight of it…once it has held your hand, Grief is forever in some form or another.

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