Elvis Costello has a very special meaning to me. When I was junior in high school, we had two new students from San Antonio, Texas — a boy my age and his sister, who was a year older. We instantly welcomed the boy into our circle of friends — he was smart, witty and cute. All of the girls in my group of friends had crushes on him and the guys just wanted to hang out with him. We all had tickets to go see an Elvis Costello concert together. Then a tragic accident happened — the boy had an allergic reaction to something he drank, threw up and began choking. He went into a coma and was hospitalized. Our group of friends was devastated. We prayed. We cried. We didn’t know what to do. We went to Elvis Costello without our new friend, and every slow song seemed like a gut-wrenching tribute. A couple of days later he was taken off life support and passed away. I later became very close with his sister.
I’m sharing this story because I think a lot of teens experience the death of a peer — especially in more violent neighborhoods, but even as I did, at an affluent private school. Processing this kind of loss as an adolescent is difficult, awkward and scary – especially face to face with your friends. With all of the negative attention that MySpace has been getting, I wanted to call attention to something I think is very positive. The L.A. Times, reg. required, published a story about MySpace memorials. This story has been done before and I talk about MySpace memorials in Totally Wired, but I wanted to expand on why going to the page of a friend who passed away and leaving a comment along side other mourners seems not only like a great therapeutic outlet for grief, but also seems like a safer public expression of grief, especially if you’re a teen.
From the article:
…the grieving on MySpace is unplanned — the dead person’s page is a frozen moment, showing when they last logged on, their favorite books and movies, whether they were in a relationship, and photos of their best friends. After their death, their friends post messages to the departed that are akin to text messages between high school pals, stream-of-consciousness blurbs filled with slang, misspellings and abbreviations. The messages are sorrowful and sweet, angry and funny, routine and heartbreaking. They include reminiscences, pleas to watch over them, and updates on events the dead friend has missed….[Linda] Goldman [a grief therapist] said MySpace was a valuable outlet for the dizzying emotions of teenagers, who may be dealing with the death of a friend for the first time. Seeing others communicating with the departed shows them they are not alone in their grief, even months after the death. Additionally, knowing they can click on the profile months or years from now allows them to keep a connection to their friend as memories fade, she said.
I wish my friend had a MySpace page.