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Grief process: 1992 vs. 2010

April 1, 2010 | 11:29 am

If you're reading the Afterword blog, you're probably interested in obituaries. So if you don't yet know about Obit magazine's website, you should check it out. Besides linking to interesting news obituaries, Obit  presents essays about death and dying, grief and mourning, and other related issues. They are often compelling reading.

A recent article by Suzanne Strempek Shea titled "Paying Respects" examines the differences between how her family went about alerting the world of her father's death in 1992 and that of her father-in-law two months ago. She focuses on the technological changes that have occurred in the interim.

My first hint of a new era came that first day when I reached for the cell phone to tell a dear friend the news. But she’d already left me a message, having learned of the death just a few hours after it happened and from an ocean away. Someone in the States had relayed word via e-mail to friends in Ireland, my father-in-law’s birthplace.

Several e-mailed my friend to ask what she knew. And now she was phoning me to offer condolences.

Back in 1992, I sat on the floor by the regular old land line, working my way through the family phone book. Here in 2010, choruses of ring tones informed us of more messages and texts piling up. "We just heard," said the callers. "We R with U," read the lines.

Read the rest of the essay here and see what she has to say about online obituaries and the etiquette of offering condolences.

-- Claire Noland