If you’re looking for emotional support, peer acceptance, and a sense of belonging, Connection Communities at 1-800-Flowers.com is a wonderful place to start. Our series “Strength of Community” explores the conversations that take place in this unique online forum for sympathy and grief. Except where noted, the names in this article have been changed to protect the privacy of the forum’s participants.
When you lose a cherished relative or companion, there’s only so much that “I’m sorry for your loss” can do for you. In 1-800-Flowers.com’s “Coping with Loss” Connection Community, though, the conversations run much deeper.
The people in this group hope for nothing less, having lost aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, siblings and spouses, lovers and best friends, children and cherished pets — the worst losses anyone could imagine. They come here to salve their pain, ease their survivor’s guilt, and find some understanding that can help them keep facing the world. They often need to intensely vent their grief, and here they can do it with impartial people who don’t carry the baggage of an existing relationship with them.
Bereavement issue at work
Recently, Dolores Green posted that shortly after beginning training for a new job, her grandfather died. She was granted bereavement leave, but on the second day she took off, she received a call saying she had been fired for missing training. She got the call in the middle of the funeral. That upset her so much that she missed the rest of the funeral, and she subsequently fell into depression.
Then she received a call from her boss: A mistake had been made by human resources, and she still had a job. Nonetheless, she remained so upset by the whole fiasco that she felt tremendous stress at the job, and she came to the Coping with Loss members looking for help and advice about whether to leave or stay at the job.
A slew of people responded with emotion, insight, shared memories and cogent, inspirational advice. Some of the counsel especially moved her: “A good work culture is worth more than money,” one person told her, which had her leaning toward quitting. But then someone else offered contrasting advice that was simple but effective: “Before you quit, talk to your boss and clear the air,” she said. Dolores took that advice in the end and thanked everyone profusely for their support.
Varied losses, consistent support
Not everyone who posts in the Coping with Loss group has such a complicated story, and the types of losses vary widely. But in each instance, people post about feelings that are serious and deeply felt, and most of the time the responses share that emotional quality, because the respondents have experienced similar pain, or are still going through it.
The answers sometimes help people who post solve problems they are facing, but they always help them feel they’re not carrying their burdens alone. The conversations include:
- Anne Lassiter, whose sister died from COVID, heard from many others who had lost relatives to the virus, and they all commiserated.
- Selma Farins, who lost her mother to alcohol, heard from others who had similarly gone through Al-Anon and other attempts to save their loved ones, with the same alternating feelings of hope and despair.
- John Adler, who lost his best friend, talked about how whenever he started feeling better, the grief cycled back to him again and again at unpredictable times. He heard from many others who said the same thing kept happening to them. They suggested that the grief would dim with time, and that he would learn to roll with it.
- Samuel P., who posted that he was having recurrent dreams about his dead mother and kept waking up thinking she was still alive, before being disappointed again to realize his mother had passed. He was surprised to learn that many others had similarly confusing dreams that led to disappointed awakenings.
- Jean Johnson, who lost her mother and then had to deal with a wicked stepmother who was attempting to get all the father’s money, received many excellent responses about how to navigate the situation, including advice from a lawyer or two.
It doesn’t take a lawyer to give helpful advice, however. Every “Coping with Loss” participant brings his or her own expertise to the fray, born of hard-won experience, says Iris Arenson-Fuller (her real name), a life and loss transformation coach who has frequently offered help and advice to the community.
As an example of her contribution, she remembers how sad one young man was on his deceased mother’s birthday. “Together we came up with a way to honor her with his siblings by creating a special birthday meal of her favorite foods and a cake as they all shared special memories and stories about her,” she says.
While she cautions participants to remember that it’s a peer group setting, not professional therapy, she adds forcefully, “I have always been a huge proponent of peer support, and this provides a level of this that other types of social media do not. It provides a safe, compassionate space for young and old alike.”