Grieving relatives turn to virtual memorials

With online sperm and egg trade and social networking sites, we already create and date on the internet – so why not cremate online too?

Grieving relatives turn to virtual memorials

Maggie Candy, a nurse trained in care of the elderly, thought she knew how to cope with death. But when her daughter Stella committed suicide at age 17 she found the adult world of condolence books, sympathy cards and graveyard headstones out-dated and lacking in what it could offer in Stella’s memory.

In the end she turned to her computer-savvy teenage son, the internet, and a new world of online memorials and so-called “death networking” to create a fitting tribute.

“For most younger people now, the internet is something they use every day and online memorials are a natural evolution,” she says.

Candy’s virtual memorial to her daughter was one of the starting blocks for what some call the latest “e-trend” in Britain. Candy now runs a website on which she offers the bereaved a way of paying tribute to their dead. Users create a memorial page with pictures, poems and tributes which can be visited, viewed and added to by anyone who feels a need.

A similar site, Gone Too Soon began as a small, personal memorial site but has grown overwhelmingly since it was set up in November 2005. It now has tributes to more than 13,000 people and says more than 100 are added each day.

“I quite often sit and read it. I feel for people. It is quite morbid but you can feel the pain people are going through,” says founder Terry George. “What I think about is, where else would they be releasing this pain, anger and frustration if they didn’t have this site?”

“Young people find it easier to express themselves this way,” says site manager Nicola Davis. “If they had to visit graveyards or go to funerals they wouldn’t know what to say, but on the internet they are more confident and comfortable with saying how they feel.”

Candy believes online shrines may soon consign cemeteries and graveyards to the past.

“Online memorials are good for the environment,” she says. “We are running out of space in this country for graves, and cemeteries, well yes, there are some nice ones, but generally speaking you wouldn’t want to live next door to one. With an online memorial, it can be private when I want it to be private, but it is always there, and there is some comfort that no matter where I go, I can go online and see it.”

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