In this day when social networking is popular among the young and old alike, many may count among their friends people whom they have never actually met face-to-face. These friends become daily companions in online games, instant soundboards for troubles, and celebrants for even the smallest of victories. When one of these friends dies, it is reasonable to feel a real sense of loss.

If you have lost a Facebook friend and find yourself overcome with grief, you may suffer the added pain of ridicule from the “real-life” people you know who do not understand that the friend you have lost was a “real” friend. They may downplay your loss insisting that the person was only on the computer. They may even suggest that the person was not at all who you thought they were. While being skeptical of the truthfulness of those online is not unwarranted, it is unfair of others to suggest that your friend was a fraud. There is no requirement that you meet someone in person to get to know them, nor is there a guarantee that spending years with a person means you do. Friendships are each unique in nature. Do not let others make you feel embarrassed for mourning your loss.

Share your loss with other Facebook friends. You may want to consider creating a Facebook page in memory of your lost friend and invite other Facebook friends to post messages, memories and photos of the one who has died. Create a Facebook event to gather online with mutual friends and have a funeral or memorial. Your Facebook friends will best understand the bond that you have formed with the one who was lost, and may in fact themselves be mourning the loss just as deeply. Taking time to acknowledge the loss between you can go a long way toward easing the sorrow you are feeling.

After allowing yourself to mourn with your Facebook friends, avoid spending excessive time online. With any loss that is suffered, it is important not to isolate yourself from those around you. While your Facebook friends are valuable and a legitimate piece of your social life, interacting with others “in real life” is an important part of emotional healing. If you have lost touch with friends nearby or have stopped associating with co-workers and neighbors whom you used to enjoy, consider rekindling these relationships. Enjoy smiles that are not generated by emoticons, listen to another truly “laugh out loud.”

Many people now enjoy having literally hundreds of “friends” thanks to social networks like Facebook. Some of these friendships develop to the point of being “real” friends. When one of these friends dies, the shock, pain and sense of loss is real and deserves acknowledgement. Sharing this pain with other Facebook friends can help you through the mourning process. Do not forget, however, to nurture the other relationships in your life and rely too on them to lift your spirits.