MuchLoved is a charitable organisation established to assist people who have suffered bereavement, particularly the death of a family member or friend. We provide and maintain individual, unique and sensitive internet tributes in order to enable you to commemorate, celebrate or simply remember a person you loved and still love. We also maintain a community to provide you with information on sources of bereavement advice and counselling, as well as mutual support. If you would like to create your own internet tribute for someone you have lost and cared about, please do give MuchLoved a try. It is very easy to create your tribute and the service has been designed to be as sensitive and as personalised as possible. MuchLoved is dedicated to helping the bereaved work through their grief by enabling people to express and share their feelings and memories. You can find out more about why we're different by visiting us at the MuchLoved website
MuchLoved was established initially because one of the founders wanted to set up a memorial website for his brother who died suddenly at University in 1995 aged just 21. The idea of an online memorial was at that time quite unusual partly because, apart from a newspaper obituary and the funeral ceremony itself, society deemed bereavement as a private matter, almost a sickness, to be resolved in private as quickly as possible. This approach benefited society, but not the bereaved. The growth of online memorials in recent years remembering the loss of loved ones shows how the bereaved want and need to externalise their grief and sadness as well as to pay tribute to the memory of their lost one. MuchLoved is dedicated to the memory of Philip Davies. He is sadly and greatly missed and was the inspiration for MuchLoved.
Notes on the recent growth of Online Memorials
This is a draft document providing information and explanation following our internal discussions about the increase in attention and demand that online memorials have been receiving. As a charitable organisation MuchLoved is focused on its dedication to helping bereaved people in the process of the grieving, rather than simply satisfying the increasing desire that people are showing to pay tribute to people that have died, in some cases those that they were not close to or did not know personally at all. We also focus on the underlying reasons for creating an online memorial and the type of content and images people will want to enter as part of their grieving process. We need to review the issue of access to a permanently online memorial and whether this should continue to be restricted to the Tribute Guardian as far as possible or whether it is helpful and or becoming generally acceptable to share private memories and often raw grief more widely with the public.
What is an online memorial?
An online memorial covers any story or tribute to someone that has died, normally a loved one. This can be simply a one page HTML webpage document giving the name of the deceased and a few words of tribute, through to a fully functioning memorial designed to celebrate, commemorate and remember someone's life in their entirety. This may include multiple photos in a gallery or slideshow plus sounds and video uploaded and numerous memories and stories from friends and family. A common feature is the acceptance of thoughts or candles, often by visiting strangers to the memorial offering their condolences and support to the grieving party. There can be the ability to chart a person's life through a timeline and their links with ancestors and descendants through a family tree feature and even the possibility of keeping a blog on your emotions and feelings during the immediate period after bereavement. There is lately increasingly a merger between the desire to grieve someone in a memorial and a move to chart an online record of the whole circle of life, potentially by having a life record that transforms into a memorial after death. Apart from the issue of dealing with anticipatory grief in the case of a long terminal illness we need to as an organisation be wary of moving towards such a trend as we have no evidence that it is helpful in the grieving process to start a memorial before death, and the involvement of the dying person in the process takes emotional control away from the Tribute Guardian. Having said that, it is possible that a website memorial site instigated and requested by the dying may be helpful in the process of dealing with anticipatory grief and this needs to be kept in mind.
A Eulogy or Epitaph
These words are often misunderstood and not used and so online memorial, tribute, life record, dedication and other phrases have become more common ways to express what is often an epitaph or a eulogy. In essence, a eulogy means 'good words' and is often the narration at a memorial service outlining the achievements of the deceased whilst an epitaph is more likely a pithy or witty phrase to encapsulate the character of the deceased, often inscribed on a headstone. Immediately after a death, at the funeral, a eulogy is likely to concentrate on the qualities of the deceased as it may not seem appropriate to remind the bereaved of potentially less attractive qualities. However, over time, particularly at a later memorial service, a eulogy may give a more rounded, accurate and so more heart felt description of the deceased. An online memorial is designed to span periods beyond the immediate grief and so should look to be more of a memorial description than a funeral one. Given the lack of general public knowledge of the terms eulogy and epitaph and the formality they can imply we should avoid their use and instead talk in terms of words of tribute, life record and life story.
How is an online memorial different to an obituary?
There are some key areas in which an online memorial differs in principle from an obituary. An obituary is normally produced by an independent writer looking to create an accurate assessment of the character and life of the deceased whilst an online memorial will be more emotive and individual, not worrying so much in its place amongst other memorials and obituaries. An obituary normally focuses on information through text rather than portraying the character of the deceased through sounds, video and pictures which make memorials a much more flexible tool. Most importantly however, a memorial reflects the grief and memories of the bereaved as much as the life and character of the deceased and so is much more of a living testamony than an historical record. We should be careful when using the word obituary as this is only a part of what an online memorial is. They each serve their purpose but the memorial is designed to help the next of kin in the process of grieving whilst the obituary is more a matter of fact for the public record.
Keeping a memorial online
It is fundamental that an online memorial is kept online. As there is no physical print it is the physical location of the memorial for the grieving and so essential that it is always online. It is also the means of communicating to other friends and family and so allowing them to contribute and help develop, edit, approve and even enjoy the memorial. It is therefore imperitive that the systems including back up, not only work seamlessly but that users are confident and assured that their memorial will always be accessible online.
An additional assurance will be needed in terms of the longevity of this online ability as people are sceptical that perpetual really means perpetual. Whilst users are clearly happy that an approach which separates the provision of properly funded hosting with the service is more appropriate and there is a high level of confidence on the organisation, this does not always translate to a belief that an online memorial will really be available for viewing for future generations.
Our current information to users on keeping a memorial online is located here.
There is also the speed of connection issue that needs to be addressed as users need an immediate link through to their memorial website address rather than having to wait for an upload. Currently it is normally understood that slow speeds can be down to specific user computer memory issues and that a new computer will increase the speed dramatically, but it shouild be noted that expectations will increase over the coming years.
Lastly, there is the real need to consider a physical version of our memorials so that the online virtual memorial has a pysical paper version. It will probably be best to link up with an organisation that does this, preferably a not for profit one, otherwise we should keep this on our wishlist for future development. I believe that this will enhance rather than detract from our online service.
Tributes and dedications to Public and Famous People
The growth in tributes to celebrities and famous people causes a great deal of debate. Does it undermine the approach of a memorial as a way of griefing or does it herald the start of a new type of zeitgeist with smaller user-led support groups meaning that a much wider group of people can have access to tools to express their grief and to contact others in grief in a community? If so, is it increasing general emotional intelligence in our community or simply diluting the voice of real grief?
Thes tributes have also led to increasing dedications to pets and animals and also autobiographical tributes being created prior to death by the person about to die. This works against the notion of a memorial being for the bereaved in their grieving and may also be seen as a way of the deseased trying to keep control over the way in which they are remembered, or the grieving process itself. We need to keep an eye on these developments and take feedback from bereaved people as to whether messages saved for post-death are normally of benefit in the grieving process. In principle we always believe that everything that people want to say to each other is best said before death and not through messages afterwards but there may be exceptions to this.
There are also a number of public and famous people such as Princess Diana Spencer and Ghandi which have become iconic characters with numerous much visited memorial websites and tributes that are less about the expression of grief and more about society. To view an example see http://diana.spencer.muchloved.com
Encouraging People to visit your memorial
Our current information on online memorial access is hosted here. There is no doubt that allowing or encouraging visitors to your website memorial can be a positive part of the healing process, particularly when you need an outlet to express to anyone and everyone your grief and misery over the loss of your loved one. For some people, encouraging total strangers to visit and to leave a message of condolence is definitely part of this whilst for others, they would prefer only people directly affected by the death to visit the memorial.
There is a danger that by encouraging, rather than allowing, visitors you are more likely to have a less positive reaction by the bereaved as there are numerous examples of strangers abusing their priviledged position in viewing a website and going beyond the boundary of expressing condolences. Comments provided may be hit or miss, sometimes being well received but other times causing a great deal of distress or hurt. This is before adding additional issues such as problems with spammers. We should ensure therefore that a line should be drawn between allowing and encouraging visitors, outside of the circle of invited friends and family.
How can an Online Memorial help in Grieving?
It should not be forgotten that an online memorial is now widely as well as correctly accepted as an integral part of the grieving process and the underlying basis for this is the way in which it encourages communication and expression between the bereaved and the rest of society. There is not normally much demand for an online memorial where the tribute guardian keeps the memorial private to themselves and no one else at all. It is normally one of their tools for communicating and prolonging the grieving communication process with others. The current position is sometimes expressed that 'society cares but does not know how to listen' and the online memorial can certainly act as a bridge in this regard.
All developments to the service should bear in mind this need to help the bereaved express their feelings and to communicate over a prolonged period of grieving. In particualr we should look for ways for people to vent emotions such as anger, regrets and guilt and to channel these in a positive way. Increased functionality and design should only be considered if this is found to be the case.
We do not currently have a full section explaining the beneficial effect on the grieving process of an online memorial for a loved one although some information is provided as part of the benefits of a website memorial within the home page.
Lastly, we need to return to the issue of faith as part of a memorial, either as a recognition or as an integral part of the creation of the webpages. For many we can not split the issue of faith from the grieving process and so the tribute must allow for this. We need to get more feedback from users in particular over what kind of religious and faith based symbols and even links they would wish to have.
Where to next?