1000Memories Creates a Space to Digitally Honor Departed Loved Ones

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and both mainstream news and social media are full of stories and images and remembrances. My thoughts, however, are elsewhere. Five years ago today, I was widowed, as my then-husband and father of our then-12-year-old son died of liver cancer. He was 34.

As anyone who's lost a loved one knows, the process of dealing with a death is grueling -- on both a practical and an emotional level. That's nothing new. But with the rise of Internet technologies, some of the processes and practices we've developed around death and dying may be changing. As daily newspaper readership dwindles, for example, what will become of the obituary? As more of us record and share our lives via social networking sites, what will become of our online profiles when we die?

It's estimated that 1.5 million Facebook users will pass away this year, and while both Facebook and Twitter have begun to establish policies around what to do when a user dies, neither of these platforms feel like really the right place to preserve and honor the memory of a loved one.

And that was part of the impetus for the formation of 1000Memories, a website where friends and family can come together to remember someone who has passed. 1000Memories aims "to create a place that visitors can gather and remember the lives of the people they love most; a place where visitors know that their loved ones will be treated with respect and where their memory will be maintained forever."

1000Memories allows users to create a customizable homepage and invite friends and family to share stories, upload photos, and sign a guestbook. The site is free (unlike the exorbitant fees some newspapers charge to print an obituary). You can also start a project in someone's honor via the site and gather donations to a charitable cause to be made in their name.

The three founders of 1000Memories all recently lost loved ones themselves. And while this might have helped them identify the need for a service like this, arguably it also gave them keen insight on how to create an experience for users that is deeply respectful.

Even though it's been five years since his passing, I signed up for a page for Anthony, my husband, and as with most websites you join, received back a confirmation email. It was auto-generated, sure, but it came from co-founder Jonathan Good's email account, not a generic company one. It contained my name and Anthony's. And the email offered assistance if I had any questions along the way, including giving me access to Good's phone number. That sort of personal touch, I think, goes a long way when dealing with death and grief. And as there are so many horrific processes one has to go through under these circumstances, it is crucial that setting up a memorial site not be one of them.

1000Memories has created a site that makes it easy -- during one of the most difficult times -- to remember our departed loved ones.

Photo Credit: Author