FacebookA few months ago, I lost my little sister, suddenly and terribly. I'm still in shock -- typing those words just now was a surreal experience. I see them there in black and white, and tears spring to my eyes and the familiar lump in my throat returns, but there's also a part of my brain that doesn’t believe it -- maybe I never really will. These three months have been unequivocally the worst of my life, but there have been many bright spots in the darkness, bright spots of love, support, and friendship, without which I couldn't have made it through. And one surprising source of light and brightness for me has been Facebook.

Every time I post a photo of my sister and someone "likes" it, every time someone comments on my "I'm hurting" status, I truly feel the connection and support. It’s amazing, really, how much of a difference it has made to me, how much these tiny, instantaneous actions resonate through and bring succor to my aching heart.

More from The Stir: Facebook Accidentally Reunites Biological Family With Adopted Daughter (VIDEO)

Of course nothing replaces the necessity and value of spending time in person with the people I love, and every time I get a card in the mail, I’m so moved and grateful, but I'm truly astonished at how the virtual support I get from my Facebook community also helps carry me, keeping me afloat when I feel like I might drown. People I haven't really been in touch with since high school have reached out to share their own stories of loss, friends I've only met online have sent me words of incredible comfort, and people I see frequently (and who must be tired of my gloomy face!) still find the time to give me virtual love in the form of a few sweet or funny words, or a simple "like."

And then, of course, there is my sister's Facebook page. The pictures she chose to represent her profile, the status updates she made over the last several years, the articles that she liked and shared, the photo albums full of memories -- all of it offering painful, wonderful snapshots of the life and the person I miss so much. They break my heart all over again (and over again and over again and over again), but they mean so much to me to have, bittersweet drops that both nourish and stoke the thirst of my grief.

I find myself clicking over to her page just about every day. Now and then I'll see that someone else has left her a message, an "I love you," or an "I miss you," or a funny anecdote, or a photo. Seeing those posts brings me true joy; somehow I feel a little bit better knowing someone else misses her too, is thinking of her too, loves her too. Sometimes I’ll just scroll though her photos again, clicking "like" or commenting just because I can, and because it makes me feel a little bit closer to her. And when those comments or photos show up in my friends' feeds, and they in turn comment or like them, it feels good.

I can't express how grateful I am that Facebook exists right now. In this terrible time, it helps me feel closer to my friends far and near, to my family far and near, and to my sweet sister, so far, but also always near, right here in my heart.

Have you ever found Facebook to help you in difficult times?


Image via the author's Facebook page