OFFICIAL BLOGHER '10 LIVEBLOG: Personal: Grief, Loss, Tragedy and Community on the Internet

BlogHer Original Post

Grief, Loss, Tragedy and Community on the Internet

Panelinsts: Cecily Kellogg, Loralee Choate, Kim Trimble, Peter & Anissa Mayhew

Cecily: I guess we’ll all start out to
I was 23.5 weeks pregnant with twin boys when I was diagnosed with preeclamapsia, October 2004., I had already blogged through being infertile and blogged through that. Then the doctor came in and said if you don’t terminate this pregnancy, you will die.

Kim: My husband hit his head on a stool, said he was fine for 4 days, by the time I got home, he was in a coma. Took him to the hospital. Father died a few months later.

Loralee: In 2003 I had a beautiful little red-headed boy named Matthew and he died of SIDS. Spent some time trying to get my life together. Had a suicide attempt in 2005. I am here to talk about how our community helped picked me up;

Anissa: I’m not actually dead. I had a stroke in 2005 and then my youngest daughter had cancer in 2006 and we dealt with Leukemia In 2009, I had several more strokes. I’ve blogged the whole time and been fairly honest and upfront about what happened to us. Talked about everything from being sick to recovery.

Peter: I married Anissa. So when my wife had her 2nd and third strokes, there was a lot of chaos around what was going on. I needed an outlet of sorts. It got our family through a tough time early, and the thought was it was going to do it again this time. An amazing thing happened. People started reading it. When we first started blogging, after her coma, we averaged 50,000 hits a day, Can I get a show of hands of who broke my website when that happened? (Most of the room raises hands.)

Thank you. At my lowest moments, I would go and see that people in Africa are praying for us. I was never alone through this whole thing. Thank you so much, you gave me back my family.

Cecily: one of the worst things about grief is how isolating it is. Right away, you’re okay, people check and ask if you’re okay. But four weeks later, four years later… blogging saved my sanity. Did you find that blogging helped you after the initial crisis.

Kim: I wasn’t blogging about anything particular, just my dog, my socks. But when Gregory passed away. I was using Twitter. I laid in the hospital bed with him and Tweeted. It helped. It also helped because I don’t talk about it like this.

Peter: The bottom line is what is blogging, social media? It’s another form of communication. Your friends are your friends whether they live in your time

Cecily: When I was in the hospital and we still weren’t sure what was happening with the twins, my best friend printed out all the comments for me and brought them to me. And it was like someone pumped fresh air into the hospital

Anissa: When I came home form the hospital. I had literally like 12,000 emails and I was like “oh, Holy crap.” I backed away from the computer and said ‘I don’t even know what to do with that.” But it meant so much to start writing again. That was the darkest moment. Even though I can’t write like I used to, it was me and my voice.

Kim: I wasn’t blogging about it at the time. It was 2005 and I was in a van by the river and I remember watching. It’s as bad as you think it’s going to be times a million. When you’re suicidal, you’re not well, and my loss of my little boy just really broke me. I remember watching this bead of condensation go down the windshield and I had just chugged two bottles of lithium and a huge bottle of Xanax. It was just so lonely seeing this one drop of water go nowhere. I didn’t know a soul in the world. I firmly believe if I’d had this community of men and women and angels, even though God and I are in a big old fight. You are all angels. I do not think I would have been there if I had been in this community. I don’t think I would have fallen so low. I have to say think you for saving me.

Cecily: Wondered if any of you had made any major change to help cope. I lived in a big old house with a nursery. I sold the house and moved. Did you do

Loralee: I changed our bedroom around. I’m still in the process. I’m still grieving. I still haven’t dealt with my father’s death. Many of you in this room are my family. When somebody dies you get widow cooties, or death cooties. And the real life people who say they will be there no matter what, you call six weeks later and they aren’t.

Kim: I worked. I’m the PTA president. I remodeled my son’s school. I was up until 2-3 morning every night.

Loralee: My job saved my life too. The entire store came to the funeral and was there for me. And I went back to work after a month and they clapped me in.

Aniussa: In a lot of ways being able to go back to laughing at AomingLow was part of the healing process. I’m still a lot slower than I used to me, but having friends there, it heals a part of my heart. It heals a part of me that I didn’t know needed it. People who say blogging isn’t important can kiss my ass.

Peter: We had to change our house around so we could get the wheelchair. Everythiong we do is differerent.

Cecily: I became this funny, angry bitter person for a time. People try to do a lot of stuff to be helpful – things like “they’re in a better place” which is not fucking helpful. You get defensive and you tell people your truth.

Loralee: The first time I actually went anywhere after Gregory died, I went to Kentucky to a blogger party. Gregory was cremated and I took his ashes everywhere I went. I took out this small urn and set it on the table and said “this is Gregory.” I’d say it was his toe and they’d ask “where’s the rest of him?” And I’d say “don’t use the pepper.”

Loralee: A lot of my family didn’t really handle my need to be humorous. The day we buried him. I don’t know if there was a freaking fern sale in Utah. I said “I don’t know why so many people brought ius potted plants, I can’t keep anything alive. Look while we’re here today.”

Anissa: When my daughter was sick, we went to a lot of funeral for kids. I had a friend and I would ask her what we’re going to talk about. “Are we going to talk about dead babies The grocery store?” And she would say “dead babies,” maybe because no one else was going to.

Peter: At the expo yesterday, I was walking around. Marketing people who are very cheerful would ask “what are you talking about?” And I would say “tragedy and loss.”

Kim: It’s the club no one wants to join. My widow’s club on Twitter has helped tremendously.

Janis from do your family and friends react to you sharing your stories.

Loralee: My husband had a difficult time with my blog. He’s a private person while I have a relaxed-boundary issue. We’ve just been through a lot. I think the internet might have given a greater distribution to the pain and weight of what happened.

In March, I lost my best friend. She wrote me the most awful email I’ve ever received in my life. It was almost like post-traumatic stress for her because she lived through this in 2003. Words create memory and triggers and the post I wrote about being in the van brought her back to

Kim: My brother reads my blog. My former stepdaughter and I were very close until she didn’t like what was written in the will. Her attorney actually printed out parts of my blog and brought it to court. It was squashed immediately. I have not gone back and read my posts through back when Gregory died. I can’t. I blogged a little bit about my dad, but I can’t see the screen when I do that.

Cecily: My mom thinks reading my blog is invasive.

Anissa: My mom left a comment on my blog the other day. When a mom calls you up and tells you , that’s a special mom. It was an eye-opener for my family to see all of you, and to see that we get a lot of support. There are people out on the Internet! There are people who actually use it that aren’t Al Gore and stalkers.

Cecily: Everybody in my life that really matters blogs. My dad died the February after I lost my twins. I didn’t know him very well, but when I posted about his funeral, which was white trash heaven. When I wrote a post about why did this baby die and this one didn’t, she had a problem. I changed the post. And she was my blogging hero. I’m still hurt about that.

Loralee: You can create a lot of damage to people when you’re grieving.
I tend to be the dorky, positive person that thinks that people are good.

Anissa: Some are assholes.

Lorlee: I think that people really do have good intention. I wanted to put a big sign on my head “it’s okay if ou don’t know what to say to me.” The people who support grieving people need medals. They deserve hugs and pats and flowers. It’s a painful difficult path to life someone up.

Sugar: Last year sucked hard in the community. You guys went through it. Then Maddie died. Bryce died. A lot of us expressed in our blogs how your tragedies were effecting us. How did you feel when you found these?

Anissa: Pete did not tell me so I had no idea what happened. I looked at Twitter and thought what the heck happened to my followers? Facebook. People really really give a crap. And that meant the world to me. You took the time that you meant what happened and you wrote about how we met and that means something to you. It took me a long time but I read every one of those posts. Some made me cry. They were meaningful. They always meant something close to my heart.

Cecily: I was an infertility community blogger. When one of us lost a pregnancy it sucked for all of us. It made me feel less alone, it made me feel loved and it made me feel like Nicolas and Zachary mattered. My friend who just lost her father, came over and brought me éclairs and a balloon when I was in the hospital. Every one of those posts was just as helpful. It comes back to this idea that online friends aren’t your real friends. They are real friends. It’s your real community. It’s real friendship.

Anissa: Did Cecily just cry?

Cecily: No. Not at all.

Anissa: I won the crying lottery.

Loralee: There’s still time.

Audience member: I was an infertility blogger and I got pregnant, so “I thought end of story.” Then my husband got diagnosed with cancer. I’m also in recovery and couldn’t get to meetings, and bloggers saved me. I want to say thank you for blogging through that hard stuff.

Calliope I blogged about infertility then I had a baby after five years of trying. Everybody comes to your blogwhen people die. And then two weeks later, they’re not there anymore and there’s still the death. When you go through the grief process.

Cecily: Has anybody else gotten that sense that grieving has to have a time limit?

Loralee: I’m the longest out. And I actually got an email that was very stern. My reaction is it almost feels a little like a zoo exhibit when you write about your grief. When the comments are low for something, maybe it’s related to grief. Sometimes I get the feeling of the looky-loos when you’re driving down the freeway and there’s an accident.
I’ve gone back, actually, when I need support. I’ll pull up posts that I have written and read the comments. I know the love is still there.

Kim: I’m always surprised people read my blog. 300 comments? I’d fall off my chair. The most I’ve had is 25.

Peter: Are you writing for the comments, or ware you writing something that’s inside of you that just has to come out?

Cecily: With Twitter. Comments are way down. There’s the whole thing that tragedy propels fame in blogging. It’s not sustainable.

Loralee: I had one woman come up and say “I’ve felt deep resentment for you” because she also went through a loss and didn’t

Cecily: My situation is uniquely criticized because I had a partial birth-abortion, and I’ve gotten comments like “you should have died with your sons, you selfish bitch.”

Loralee: I don’t get a lot of open attacking, but I get some nasty nasty emails. I was honest about my son – he didn’t sleep for more than five minutes, he was a colicky, colicky baby, he would settle on his stomach and he died of SIDS. I have had emails saying “you killed your baby.” It says a lot more about the person who’s writing to you.

Anisssa: I tell the Internet girls and they offer to stab them. Actually, I ignore them and they go away. Have no problem with the delete button.

Megan of I haven’t experienced a major tragedy or grief in my life, but people in my site talk about really intimate issues. How do I hold a safe space for people who are, say, considering suicide?

Loralee: You talk back. You are up front and you say “I don’t know what to say to you right night.” You ask if they have anyone around them. You ask if they are actively seeking help.

Kim: Be straight with the person. Check on them.

Cecily: I think there are three things that are appropriate to say “I’m so sorry.”

Audience member: I lost both of my parents, lost my job in this very public way. People said “sounds like material for your next book.” I’m so tired of people saying divorce is a fight, when it’s a loss.

Loralee: I said “there is one detail I will never share” and I got some angry emails from some people who were angry that there are boundaries I won’t pass.

Cecily: I’m transitioning into this place where I do this more and as more as work. I have people who are angry at me that I’m making money at this.

Anissa: If you’re helping somebody, you should be thankful that their writing is getting to them.

Cecily: A woman who told me I should shut up and die came back to me when she was in a similar situation. And that has become one of the most rewarding relationships even though we disagree on everything politically.