Over the past one year, Shruti has been updating her brother’s profile - even accepting friend requests on his behalf — as if he were still alive.
Like most people on social networking sites, 27-year-old Aditya Yadav’s profile is an active one, with a regular flow of messages and photographs. The only difference is he is no more in this world. For his family and friends though, this is a desperate attempt to keep his memories “alive.”
Psychologists say beyond three to six months, such a practice could indicate depression, but sites like Facebook and Orkut abound with such accounts.
The only son of his parents, Yadav was an IT professional in Delhi who met with a fatal bike accident on his way home from work. His sudden death put the family in a state of shock.
“Bhaiyya (brother) was a person you would like instantly, after the very first meeting. And I am not saying this because I am his sister...you can ask any of his friends. His laughter was infectious, he was lovable and empathetic,” his sister Shruti said.
“His death was untimely...and for a very long time we could not come to terms with it. When I visited his social networking profile, I found a barrage of ‘miss you’ messages from his friends, as if they could still connect to him. I believed them and decided not to delete his profile,” she added.
Thus, over the past one year, Shruti has been updating her brother’s profile - even accepting friend requests on his behalf — as if he were still alive. On his birthday, she baked a cake and posted the picture on his profile. His friends too regularly post messages on festivals and other occasions.
For 28-year-old Malini Sharma, the live profile of her late husband, Pawan, is now her companion in difficult times.
“Pawan and I were childhood sweethearts and after a courtship of nine years, we got married two years back. However, fate had a cruel plan for us...we met with a car accident last year. I came out of it with injuries, but he...,” Sharma left the sentence half-said.
“He was my best friend and I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it without him. The only thing that still made me feel that he was around was his profile on the networking site. There was no update on that to stress the rude fact that he was no more ... so it became like a comfort zone for me,” she said.
“When I miss him, I write to him there. I wish him on festivals. It feels as if he can hear me. Some of his friends keep posting their old pictures with Pawan, reminding us of the happy times around him and to keep his memory alive,” Malini said.
“Miss you darling. You will always be in our thoughts. Be happy wherever you are, see you in another world,” read a message on late Gunjan Shah’s wall. Her best friend, Ramya, posts on the late 20-year-old’s wall regularly.
“We were on a college trip to Pune. We lost Gunjan when we were walking on the sidewalk, and a car rammed against her from behind. She didn’t make it to the hospital...that image will forever remain in our minds, especially mine, because we were best friends,” Ramya said.
“Some say that I need to move on. But Gunjan used to always say how sad it was that a loved one’s memory fades away in time after their death, and I will not let that happen to her,” she said. While heart-rending it is, doctors say such a trend could be a sign of depression, and the person may need help.
“One needs to be careful about such behavior because it is not normal. When someone loses a dear one, the accepted period of bereavement is three to six months when the person tries to cope with the loss. But beyond that it’s dangerous,” Rachna Singh, lifestyle management expert at the Artemis Health Institute in Gurgaon, said.
Such behavior could indicate depression, Singh said: “If a person keeps posting messages to someone who is no more on a social networking site, it means that others know about it. The support group — family and friends — should realize that the person is in a state of denial and should help him or her accept the loss,” she added.
Said psychologist Samira Verma: “Death is painful. But for the people of the dead to move on in life, it is important to attain closure. If a wife does such things in memory of her dead husband for some time, it’s ok because she is still in the phase of denial and bereavement.
“However, beyond a certain period, others should step in and help her accept the loss. It is equally important to allow her the space to grieve after that,” she said.