Cyber-Mourning: Toward a Psychological Understanding of Grief on Social Media

Justine Gervacio, Pace University

Abstract

Grief researchers have shown that there are many variables that predict normal and complicated grief including attachment style, continuing bonds, and meaning-making. However, with the rise of technology and more specifically social media networking sites such as Facebook, there is a need to re-examine these predictors and outcomes through the lens of cybermourning. The first aim of this study was to examine how cyber-mourning is defined and how it could be measured by ultimately creating a validated scale called the Cyber-Mourning Scale. The scale was developed from a questionnaire administered to a sample of 140 paricipants and yielded two subscales that distinguish between the behavioral aspects of cyber-mourning and the emotional aspects of cyber-mourning. Based on factor analysis, the first subscale, entitled the Cyber-Mourning Behavior Subscale, was found to have two factors: active (e.g., posting about the deceased person) and passive (e.g., reading posts about the deceased person) mourning behaviors. The total score for the subscale as well as the two factors were found to have good internal consistency. lso based on factor analysis, the second subscale, entitled the Cyber-Mourning Emotions Subscale, was found to have three factors that are consistent with the conceptual understanding of positive emotions (i.e., the comfort/happiness subscale), and also distinguish between negative emotions (i.e., sadness/discomfort subscale) and more conflicted emotions (i.e., guilt/anger subscale). The total score for the subscale as well as the three factors were found to have good internal consistency. The second aim of the study was to explore the relationships between attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, and complicated grief, through cyber-mourning and continuing bonds as potential mediators. The hypothesized serial mediation model was not supported; however, there was a significant indirect association between cyber-mourning and complicated grief through continuing bonds, suggesting that posting about the deceased person, reading posts, or visiting their page may prolong the grief process, or that cyber-mourning behaviors may be a manifestation of continuing bonds. The development of the Cyber-Mourning Scale suggested that cyber-mourning may not fit neatly with current conceptualizations of grief (offline) and should be treated as a separate and distinct construct. How an individual mourns online may be very different than how they mourn offline. Finally, the low incidence of complicated grief within the current sample may allow us to gain additional insights into normative grieving online.

Subject Area

Psychology

Recommended Citation

Gervacio, Justine, "Cyber-Mourning: Toward a Psychological Understanding of Grief on Social Media" (2019). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI13916001.
https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI13916001

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