My Hands Are Tied

by Deb Sims, MS,RNCS,LCSW

Dear Deb,

At the edge of December 1998 I made a very good online friend. She was the best friend, online or off, that I have ever had. On June 10, 1999, she passed away. Quite frankly, I have lost good friends that I knew offline that didn't hurt me in the way that this did. My friend had a webpage at GeoCities that I visit every 3 weeks to keep it up. It had gotten to the place that it was easier to go to that page every three weeks than it was for a long time. My friend lived about 40 miles from me and, to make a long story short, she had a childhood that was full of mental, physical, and sexual abuse.

It's also worth mentioning that she told me that she was planning on divorcing her husband. After her death I ordered a back issue of the local paper to find out, from her obituary, where she was buried so that I could visit her grave. Her obituary said that burial would be private. I was finally able to find out where she was buried in late April 2000, through some online detective work.

When I got to the cemetery where her cremated remains are buried, I found out that her family still hasn't bothered to get a marker for her grave. I know that I reached her grave because she was cremated and the cemetery was very small; the man at the funeral home, who spoke to me, told me where she was buried. The man at the funeral home, who handled her, was very nice and frankly he's the reason that I was able to find her grave in the first place. Words can't tell you how much this hurt me. Seeing her buried in an unmarked grave, and finding out that my hands are totally tied because I'm not family, has hurt me deeper than I've ever been hurt and I feel so useless. It is a slap in the face to me to know that my friend's online friends (several people made tribute webpages to her) actually cared about her more than her family. I'm a 32 year old man and seeing that her grave was unmarked after almost a year hurt me so bad that I spent the whole day, after visiting her grave, home alone, on a crying jig. I cried all the next day about that.

Do you have any suggestions for the way I feel? My offline friernds, and even a few that are online, don't understand how I could feel this way toward someone online whom I never met.

Dear Reader:

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Just because you never met personally does not mean your friendship was unimportant. Relationships of value are based on knowing the true essence of a person's soul, and it certainly sounds like you knew each other well. I can believe she was your best friend.