Grieving in the Information Age

It’s funny. When I heard the news about Freda Wright-Sorce’s death, I posted just a brief comment here, along with what could, at best, be described as a half-formed thought as to my personal impressions on meeting her. I certainly didn’t write it with any ulterior motive, but out of an honest sense of grief at the passing of someone who — however peripherally — had made my life a bit happier.

In the few days since that posting, my average daily visitor count has more than doubled. Hell, it’s more than quintupled. Part of that is no doubt due to the serendipity of Internet search engines; perhaps because of timing, perhaps through random selection, this site came up fairly early on the lists of those searching for information about Freda.

(I suspect that the site isn’t what most searchers were expecting, but I certainly offer my sincerest welcome.)

But, convenient placement aside, I think a lot of it has to do with how desperately people wanted to find information about her, to make some sense out of this seemingly senseless loss, to share in this collective sense of powerlessness in the face of arbitrary catastrophe. While events like the London bombings are clearly more significant in terms of true loss, it’s the losses that strike closer to home that resonate more keenly. That’s why newscasters focus on individual stories in larger catastrophes, why (good) filmmakers bring out personal tales rather than merely retelling the larger sweep of epic events.

Of course, the sheer number of searchers also says something about the suprising degree to which Freda affected people’s lives. She was always a peripheral player on the Don and Mike Show, never seeking the limelight, never drawing attention away from the show’s stars. But at the same time, she was the voice of reason, a counterpoint to the off-the-wall antics of the show’s regulars. While Don was the unbridled id, giving voice to those thoughts each of us has on first impulse, Freda was the superego, the moderating influence, the little bit of reason that keeps us able to function in society. (I suppose in this analogy, Mike serves as the ego, balancing the needs of the id with the influence of the superego. Okay, so it’s a little stretched, but it’s just a metaphor.)

I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer, either in terms of specific information (despite her minor-celebrity status, Freda wasn’t exactly one to seek special attention) or insight into the larger meaning to be gleaned from this tragedy. But perhaps by merely acknowledging my own sadness, I can allow those who share in it the chance to find such meaning for themselves.


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