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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Dealing with sadness in the internet age

Rika Kayama

Lately, a number of people have come to my consultation room talking about the death of 34-year-old TV announcer Mao Kobayashi, who passed away on June 22 following a battle with breast cancer. Comments such as, "I'm in shock that she's died," have been fairly common.

    In autumn 2016, shortly after Kobayashi went public about her illness, she launched an inspirational blog, which she updated frequently with sincere accounts about her battle with breast cancer and day-to-day life, while also raising two children.

    Many readers of Kobayashi's blog, including some of my patients, were profoundly inspired by the content. One patient said to me, "Although I never met her personally, reading her blog every day brought me closer to her, and she began to feel like a relative. Her passing has left a huge hole in my life." I replied that I understood this feeling.

    Today, many people use online blogs and social networking services to communicate with the world. When one comes across photos titled, "Today's lunch," or sentences such as, "I'm in shock right now because I was berated at work," it feels as though you know that person better than other people such as those you work with.

    In my own case, I remember the sadness I felt when the writer of a blog I particularly liked suddenly discontinued the blog, deleting everything they had written up to that point. It was a sad experience, somewhat akin to waving goodbye to a friend.

    Recently, when replying to one of my patients who was "sad about Kobayashi dying," I said, "You're a kindhearted person. Kobayashi's blog has made you realize certain things, right?" The patient replied, "Yes, I realized that even if you become ill, you can write a blog that is beneficial to others, and you can feel gratitude toward those around you, instead of just moaning." After that, the patient smiled, and said, "The sentiment of Kobayashi's blog will continue to exist long after her passing. I think it will inspire me for the rest of my life."

    In my opinion, blogs are a two-way street between the writer and the reader. If a writer suddenly stops updating their blog or passes away, then a sense of loss is often felt by the reader. However, the point here is to think positively and to realize that the presence of the blog was a good thing, even if it's gone, and that it can continue to have an inspirational legacy long after its cessation.

    Of course, the fact that Kobayashi's blog ended because she died is very sad, and there are limits concerning the number of positive points. However, how about thinking to yourself, "The courage and inspiration I gained from your blog will never disappear. Thank you for that."

    In the internet age we currently live in, with numerous blogs across the world, we need to think about how we can overcome the sadness we feel when an inspirational blog suddenly comes to an end. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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