Saturday, October 3, 2009

How Do You Say Goodbye to an Internet Friend?

Headstones Falling OverImage by ChicagoGeek via Flickr

I recently found out that a friend on Facebook suddenly died five days ago. I didn't know her well at all; I befriended her to increase my number of neighbors in Farm Town, an online game I play on Facebook. We occasionally "spoke" when she came to my virtual farm as part of the game, to complete a task for coins or water my flowers. Our conversations began when she typed: "Hi, how are you?" or "Your farm is very pretty." or "Where have you been? I haven't seen you online for a while." She seemed like a genuinely nice person.

How did I find out she died? I saw a post in my Facebook news feed yesterday that obviously was not written by her, giving details about her funeral service. I immediately went to her profile and read a series of posts from a niece, a nephew, a daughter-in-law and friends. I don't know how she died, but it was clear from the posts that she was in a coma and everyone was pulling for her to come out of it. I want to know the details, but no one has posted that information on her wall.

It is sad, but because of her death I now know more about her. She lived in South Africa; she was divorced; she was a mother, grandmother, aunt and friend to many. She worked in a real estate office. She was only 49 years old. I searched for an online obituary and was unable to find one.

She obviously touched my life, but now I am alone with my grief. Unlike my in-person life where I share my family and friends with many other people, this was an exclusive one-on-one friendship that I shared with no one else. So now I am left, by myself, to make sense of her early and untimely death, with more questions than answers swirling in my brain. I can't jump on a plane to South Africa to attend the funeral. I feel awkward about emailing her family and asking for more specifics. The best I can do is take the final gifts she sent me in Farm Town and create a little space on my farm to memorialize her.

I am left wondering what is the best way to say goodbye to an Internet friend. And it's got me thinking about what plans I should make now to ensure I can say goodbye to the friends that are part of my online life after I log off for the last time.

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1 comment

vanita said...

wow. you're not alone. i feel sad with you and for her and her family. It's always awful when someone passes, whether we know them personally or virtually, knowing that they existed, that you once had some kind of communication and now knowing that you won't have that again is painful.
i don't think I'd mind if a virtual friend of someone I cared for contacted me and said, "I was a virtual friend of so-and-so, we chatted a few times and i really liked her. I read about her passing and I'm sorry she's gone. May I ask what happened?" or something along those lines. give it a try. her passing is a bigger loss to her family, yes, but it's still a loss to you and I don't think it is wrong for you to inquire.
hugs to you dear.