The technology of coping: Digital tools for the grieving
Grief is one of the most difficult, trying psychological phenomena, and it’s something that almost every one of us is guaranteed to feel at some point in our lives. It’s never been an easy thing, as the scores of literature from the dawn of time will attest, and there is no modern digital band-aid that will cure it.
That said, there are some online tools which can help grieving survivors come to terms with their loss and cope with them in the hyperconnected modern world.
Note that nothing is a substitute for good therapy and strong family support — these tools aren’t an adequate replacement for either. These are more like alternate solutions to the everyday pangs that grief brings.
If you’ve ever needed a village to help you through the tough times, you might find the support you need at forums.grieving.com, also called Beyond Indigo. Relatively active and with a modestly-sized community, Beyond Indigo’s members seem sensitive and sympathetic in the many thousands of posts on the boards.
There are multiple boards, for various different forms of grief, help-seeking, and aftereffects of loss. While you’re not likely to find threads with hundreds of responses, the ones there do seem to be positive and full of empathetic advice.
One of the oft-overlooked side effects of loss is stress. Apart from the strain of a part of your life suddenly not being present anymore, setting their affairs in order can be a hassle-and-a-half. Depending on their estate or funeral expenses, you can find yourself neck deep in stress at a time when you need it the least.
Meditation apps can help you manage your stress levels during the worst times. One of the most ubiquitous and easy-to-use is the guided meditation app Headspace, which can show you the basics of meditation and how to remove yourself from painful situations.
As stated above, nothing is a substitute for good therapy, but it can be difficult for some people to access the kind of services they need. There are a myriad of options for short-term counselling, but some people might require more long-term treatment, especially if the grief is unexpected or traumatic.
My colleague Tristan Greene reviewed the Ginger app, which gives a paying user 24/7 access to mental health resources, including coaches and therapists. The app isn’t free, unfortunately, but for those who might be able to spare the minimum $129 a month for the basic subscription, it can be extremely helpful to have someone to talk with at all times.
Journaling is a well-known tool for dealing with grief, especially for children. It can be a great way to keep a lost loved one in your thoughts while remembering positive things about them. There’s really no wrong way to do it, and there are a number of options for journaling.
Basic journaling apps can do the job fairly well — I’ve used Dropbox and Evernote, and even the iPhone’s built-in note app when I needed to. There are a few apps which act specifically as grief journals, but the free apps such as those are less likely to restrict to a particular scenario (loss of a parent, grandparent, etc).
If you have any further digital coping mechanisms to help with grief, let everyone know about them in the comments. What worked for you might be a great help to someone else.