Taking Grief Online

The collective outpouring of grief continued over the weekend, some in person, some online.

Enduring memorials emerged in cyberspace created by ordinary folks, who never even knew John Kennedy Jr. reports CBS News Correspondent Russ Mitchell.

Some have music. All have pictures. There are condolence pages to sign electronically, even candles with digital flames. Every site looks a little different, but sends a similar message.

"May God grant you eternal peace may your spirits live on," says one poem on a site created by Terry Baumgardt where he wrote, "We will love you and remember all the days of our lives. I pray that Camelot will never die."

Baumgardt said, "This is my way of putting something out there and expressing my own grief, my sense of loss."

And that, says therapist Tom Golden, is exactly the point.

"People will create Web sites in honor of someone who died because it helps them chip away at the pain," said Golden.

America Online members wanted to talk.

"At the peak we had people posting messages at the rate of one per second," said Jesse Kornbluth editorial director for AOL.

Some were condolence notes others recalled another loss. "When England lost Diana, they said they lost the people's Princess. I feel we've lost the people's Prince," said one message.

"They feel less alone. They discover that what they're going through is what many other people are going through," Kornbluth said.

That's why visitors from all over the world check out Golden's site, webhealing.com. They're using their computers to mourn, he said.

Golden, a licensed clinical social worker and grief specialist, said, "There are relatively few culturally endorsed rituals that help people heal from loss, and because of that people are flocking to the Internet to heal."

Web memorials are not just for the famous.

Sandy and Bill Cooper were married for 30 years.

"I was a child when I met him, I was 19 when I got married, 21 when I had my children," remembered Sandy.

They had two sons, and Bill was at the center of a happy family.

"He was just the best dad anyone could ever have," said his son Scott Cooper.

He was also a computer buff. So, when Bill died last year, the family decided to honor his memory in a place Bill liked to be--online. They set up a memorial page on the Internet.

Friends and family sent in pictures and stories.

"It was just a really good feeling to know how people loved him and what they felt about him," Sandy said.

Technology may seem like cold comfort, but the Coopers say it is healing. It is a comfort, Sandy said, "Just to know he is in people's minds, he is still here and not just forgotten."

The family still visits the cemetery to mourn Bill's death. But they visit his online memorial to celebrate his life.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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