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Mourning the Loss of a SparkFriend

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

One of the best things about SparkPeople is its wonderful sense of community. I've received some fantastic encouragement and support from the people on this site in the 3+ years I've been active here and feel like I've really formed a strong bond with many of my SparkFriends.

Every once in a while, however, I'm reminded of the fact that this is a virtual community and that our relative anonymity, while often comfortable, makes it easier for people to just fade away when times get tough. In spite of how much we talk about support being a critical part of this process and how useful it is when you're not at your best, it seems like it's even harder to stay connected when you've fallen off the wagon--that being surrounded by other people who all seem to be achieving what you can't just adds to your sense of frustration and disappointment. I've mourned many a loss of people who seem to have taken that route but, the truth is, I often don't really know why they chose to leave SparkPeople because it was a silent departure. I forge on in their absence, but it does make me sad. Every now and then, I'll check on old friend's page in the hopes that they've come back. Occasionally, I'm pleasantly surprised to get a message from an old friend who's decided to come back, but often there's hardly a trace of my old buddy to be found. And, I admit, I feel a bit like a girl who's been stood up on prom night.

What happens when a person disappears from SparkPeople? Do they choose not to log in and turn off all of their notifications? How do they feel about completely shutting out all of the support that they had once been so reliant on? Sometimes they take down their SparkPages altogether so it's almost as if they never existed even if they were so upbeat and motivating while they were active here. I haven't left SparkPeople since I joined up, but I had previously pulled away from Weight Watchers and here's what happened:

I reached goal, maybe maintained for a very short time, then experienced a big gain in a relatively short period of time. Rather than using that gain as a wake-up call to take action and lean on the support that was offered to get back on track, I just left. I felt embarassed, like the shining example I had been setting was tarnished and that I was somehow letting everyone else down. But the truth was, the person I was letting down most was myself. Inevitably, my absence meant that I was rapidly regaining all of the weight I had lost, and often a whole lot more. And what's more, I really wasn't giving the people in my support group the credit they deserved. If support systems existed just for when times are good, then we really wouldn't need them, right? It's when times get tough that we should really feel like we can lean on the people around us to help us pick up the pieces. And there wasn't a single time when I went crawling back with my head down, admitting that I had made a big mistake in leaving, that I wasn't welcomed with open arms.

If you're on the fence about whether you should stay or go here on SparkPeople, please seriously consider sticking around. There are so many people here who are willing to help and who have been exactly where you are now. WE UNDERSTAND. If you've left, but are silently lurking and happen to read this, please think about becoming active again. This isn't an easy road we're paving for ourselves, but it's so much more difficult when we feel like we're going it alone. If you know someone who's withdrawn, but still has their SparkPage up, think about sending them a little note to see how they're doing and to let them know that they've been missed. Maybe they won't respond, but your message just might be the thing that helps them to realize that there are people here, even in this anonymous virtual world, who care and helps them get back on track. And if you're an old buddy of mine who's been out of touch, please don't be afraid to reconnect. I've probably missed you more than you'll ever know.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Hi, I left SparkPeople awhile ago, because I felt bad needing the help that I had offered to so many before. So all of my SparkPeople emails ended up in my "later" folder and I'm finally back on SP and I'm finally going back through all the emails. I found this one today and I feel like I really needed it.

    Even though I'm back, I've been afraid to join teams and really participate again in case I can't be the Sparkly, helpful, there-for-you person that I was before.

    Your blog really resonated with me today and I think I'm going to start participating again - slowly at first. But, I feel like it's time to take advantage of all the caring and support that is here.

    855 days ago

    As you may notice just how long its been between the time you wrote this blog and my adding a comment will explain how often I return to sparkpeople.

    I have been a member of SparkPeople since 2009 and I loved every thing about it . The PEOPLE, FOOD, All the HELP SITES, and MORE....

    Since the time I became a member I feel I have this big family who helps me through all the pain and suffering , the ups and downs I go through everyday.

    I feel so bad when I can't join in the love, fun, happiness that the family is having that day because I am in too much pain, in the hospital , suffering from some illness due to chronic pain, the Sjogren pain, the Trochanteric Bursitis is unbearable today.
    Today is a good day so I use it to community with my Spark family and to say I miss you all and thank you for being there for me even though I'm not around as often as I want to be. So when I'm not here remember it not because I don't want to be its because I'm not able.

    Just imagine everyday being stabbed with hot knives, sting by thousand of bees, hit in the back of the neck with a bat, at time it feel I was emerged in ice water, etc. and no I am not stretching the truth this is what I go through every day.

    Thank you for this wonderful message. emoticon
    1493 days ago
    I have been a member of Spark since before it changed to this format, sometime in 2005 if I remember correctly. That's long enough that I have been here longer than some of the Spark Coaches.
    I've been gone for some times when I went on vacations and to places that couldn't make a connection with my lap top, but I think the longest I was away was about three months. At that time, I left a note via my Status box on my home page so it wouldn't appear as if I had just turned into smoke and drifted away.
    I've lost friends here on Spark in exactly the same way you have, but I have also "lost" friends in that final and last way.
    I have a few friends who have my outside email, and a couple who even have my home phone number. I may have gone overboard, but I helped start the largest team on Spark, Dealing With Depression, and I hope I never just disappear with no explanation or reason. For us Major Depressives, just not knowing can be worse than knowing and being able to grieve for that crazy person who had so much to say and was absolutely THE Funniest Person in the whole wide world.
    My wife has a list of Internet sites where I am an old, ragged-winged social warrior bee so that she can go on those sites and let people know I'm somewhere where my soul is what it is and I don't have to be concerned with being overweight - at all, at all.
    1587 days ago
    Thank you for your blog. As a person who has spent many years in recovery rooms I have unfortunately become very use to this occurrence...the disappearing support friend. It doesn't make it any easier, over time you begin to take it less personally. I appreciate the fact that you opening discuss this topic that so often gets over looked. Support is a two-street, in good and bad times. Best of luck on your journey.
    1595 days ago
    Thank you for posting this. While I am relatively new to the Spark community, I have over a year's worth of emails to go through. I signed up at the urging of a friend and then never really got involved. Several of the blogs I have been reading seemed to speak directly to me. Then one disappeared and was "no longer available" when I went to read them. Truly felt like losing a friend.
    1598 days ago
    This is a wake up call for me
    1604 days ago
    Hi emoticon , I was going through my emails, cleaning up and I almost deleted the one about your blog and changed my mind because I was curious about the title. I enjoyed reading your blog so much and feel very inspired by your story after visiting your Sparkpage. I hope it's okay with you that I added you as a friend. Thanks so much for writing this blog and sharing it. emoticon

    I have been struggling and yo-yoing even though I've been with Sparkpeople (sort of) for several years because I haven't seriously Sparked. Almost all of my Sparkfriends (few that I had) are no longer active and I often wonder about them. Like you, I've sent them messages and receive very little in response. Right now I am on summer vacation, so I am working on getting organized and acquiring healthy habits that I am hoping to retain for the upcoming work year.
    1616 days ago
    Life will sometimes get busy, and I can't come on here as much as I would like. Thanks for the blog post. It really makes you think of what you do to the people you have befriended.
    1629 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this blog
    1634 days ago
    So well said! My time here is limited by internet access issues in my rural area. I have go in and out of activity, but keep coming back!

    1634 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts
    I for one have not left SP just do not have a lot of time to post some weeks
    Have tried to revive a couple teams I belong to with not much success
    But then there are so many many team
    Keep on posting and have a great day
    One day at a time
    Love Prayers Peace
    1635 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1635 days ago
    This is just what I needed to read tonight. Thank you. I am also recovering from having gained back some of my weight. But I'm here, working the program and trusting the process once again. Thank you for your encouragement, it means a lot.
    1639 days ago
    I so needed this today. I have been away from SP for a few weeks. I finally decided to catch up on their emails, and I came across yours. Thank you so much. I totally needed to read this.
    1640 days ago
    I know my issue with the same 5lb weight loss/gain is my lack of inactivity on here
    1641 days ago
    You hit home with your blog, and I thank you. I've known for several months that I need to get back on track but I kept fading anyway. Thank you for the encouragement, and ... keep Sparking!
    --Sharon emoticon
    1641 days ago
    1642 days ago
    This was great-and I can certainly identify with it. I've been here three years,I think it's been,and I've been up,down and all around but I never quit.I am on my way permenantly now. Kudos to you! Than thank you for the post. Good read. emoticon emoticon
    1642 days ago
  • PUDU1009
    Oh my goodness! You couldn't have been speaking to me more even if you were sitting right next to me! I can't "be good" for much more than a week and once I fail myself I duck, cover, and abandon ship. Today was my first day of even opening a spark email and this was what I stumbled upon. Thank you so much for textually slapping me with a wake up call. This was EXACTLY what I needed.
    1642 days ago
  • BLONDIE218145
    I can say I have slowed down entering blogs, chatting and making entries because we are quite busy in our summer months in Ohio. I'm not going anywhere but we ride our motorcycles, visit more with friends and are very active with the nice weather...don't write ME off.... emoticon
    1643 days ago
  • XENA1956
    I really connected with this blog. I too have lost friends. One sent me a private message here on the site and when I logged in I was unable to open the message because the person had closed their page and I was unable to view it. I have no idea why she left. So if someone decides to leave and sends messages out to their friends, please wait a few days before closing your account.
    I have been gone from this site for the past year. Logging on a few times to let friends know I was still alive. Had some medical issues and gained all the weight back. I am slowly getting back on track. I soon hope to be here everyday and be a good motivator once again. emoticon
    1644 days ago
    A Great Big emoticon for this truthful blog!
    1644 days ago
    There have been times when people here passed away, but then usually their relatives come on their page and let everyone know.

    But, mostly what I have seen is that people close their pages (take offline) due to bullying and harassment. I have seen that go on time and time again. In fact it is why I have made my page only available to 'friends'.
    1645 days ago
    Thanks for your blog. I have lost two friends who are gone from Spark and really am
    so sad that I never got to say Goodbye. The most recent one, I know was ill, but kept going and was such a inspiration to me. I really miss her.Life is shorter than we think.
    Keep sparkin and thanks again for this blog. I really appreciated you sending this out,
    hugs, Irish Ei emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1645 days ago
    I have 'lost' a few Spark Friends and at times i wonder if they are 'lurking' and still around under a different name maybe...it's tough when someone just disappears..but at the same time we have to remember it is only a virtual world after all!!
    emoticon blog!!
    1645 days ago
  • CLAUD1313
    Everything you said is right on.... However, You didn't say why you left WW, especially since they kept welcoming you back!?!

    I've been a Spark member for close to a year and not always serious, I think because it is a virtual world, which has good and bad points.

    I've been very diligent lately and I have been losing weight (very slowly) but in the end, it isn't much different than WW, with the weighing and measuring, etc.
    1645 days ago
  • MAJONES1225
    Thanks for your post, it is so true
    1645 days ago
  • 4KWALK
    This is so true and I have been guilty of sitting back because I have felt so down on myself. I need to read your post again and stick around for the support when I need it most.

    Thank you for this heartfelt post.
    1645 days ago
    emoticon for such a wonderful and poignant blog! ............ I too have often wondered (and even worried) about a couple spark friends who were in the zest and zeal of sparks and both SUDDENLY were gone! .............. I could not help wonder and be concerned if something happened as we were even writing nice private notes to each other and seemed so excited .................... One had been seriously ill prior battling cancer, but I thought won the battle ............ Now I will never know ............ I felt saddened as it is funny how we can come to care about someone we never knew til Sparks ................... I hope if I ever leave I would tell those who esp. became my spark buddies ................... so sad!
    1645 days ago
    I've been having trouble figuring out how to do your food tracker. When I visit my daughter, she helps me a bit. I plan to try again!
    1646 days ago
    I must admit that I am one of those people that have dropped off the face of the earth. It is not because the support was not there that is for sure. It was because I totally gave up on myself. I did not want to share that I was letting myself become a failure once again. I just didnt care about myself but yet I did. I know what I need to do and part of me wanted to do that but the stronger part said ah who care. Well turns out I do. As I went up yet one more pant size and was 2 lbs from returning to my largest size from what I worked so hard to loose. Well the reason I didnt close my account... Well its the Sparkpeople. I can be a encouraging person for others as I speak from my own experiences. Its much harder to say hey I am not doing so well myself. Well I rejoined the gym and am starting over. Wish me luck....
    1646 days ago
    This is one of the best blogs I've read.

    Thank you and I hope people take it seriously. I've made Spark a habit, and it keeps me more focused. emoticon emoticon
    1646 days ago
    Thank you for the wonderful insight.
    1646 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    You hit the target! Spring came, I got outdoors, planted garden, attended some baseball games, farmers markets and headed for the cabin at the lake. And the food tasted soooooooooooooo good. I was hiding from SparkFriends. . . . . . . . so this morning. . . . . I am back. . . . . . I am happier. . . . . . and also, it was a very long winter here in Minnesota!

    You Sparkers are the best emoticon emoticon
    1646 days ago
  • ONUTHIN125
    emoticon So very true. Thanks for a wonderful blog! Spark On! emoticon
    1646 days ago
    Thanks for this blog. It encouraged me to come back and try again, one more time.
    emoticon emoticon
    1646 days ago
    I love your blog... I am so struggling right now.. but I refuse to turn my back on sparkpeople.... its been there... always.....
    1646 days ago
    your pinnacle like passion is so motivating and inspiring. glad I am to be part of your league.. gifted more so.. blessed
    1646 days ago
    I feel your pain! I have found myself withdrawn only because so many of my "friends" have withdrawn.
    1646 days ago
  • AUBRI328
    November 17... I can tell you the exact date I "fell" off. I was so proud of everything I had accomplished, and to this day when people ask me how, I do still turn them on to my "Spark people".
    I drove 17 hours straight from Florida to Ohio with my 16 and 10 year old. We had planned on spending Thanksgiving week with my family. I had to leave my hubby behind along with my oldest. My biggest mission was to make it "back home" in time to spend a few days with my ailing Grandmother. We arrived in Ohio at Midnight November 17th. I woke up at 5 am, logged in and updated my computer, I had done GREAT- water, diet - even walked around at the rest stops! Touched based with my hubby. THEN my world stopped. 5:17 am, my Grandmother was gone. My vacation turned into something completely different. As the oldest of 4, and the oldest cousin of 6, I was now the family matriarch. My mother who had cared for my grandmother for the last 4 years had to be reminded to eat. I was in charge now. My "community" "diet & exercise" stopped. When I returned I did go to the gym, but even that was hard. The silence in my head sometimes made it too difficult. Then in a matter of 3 weeks I gained 10 pounds. I had lost over 20. I'm in Florida. It's flip flop season, what am I saying, it's always flip flop season... but as people started posting about their swim suits, all I could think of was moving forward. Your blog reminded me that sometimes community is much more than the daily "I'm here", but the fact that we are here and we do need each other. Since November, I've been promoted (January), turned 37 (March), found a new home and started moving (April-May-June), Confirmed my MS has not grown any larger or gotten worse (May), Watched my daughter (s) graduate (one from elementary one from high school), and graduated from grad school (MBA). Through all that I've had only two slices of cake! Crazy! Small steps!
    1646 days ago
  • DENNIE530
    Thank you so much for this blog...because I am right were you're talking about. I have failed time and time again, but today is truly a New day and seeing this blog on encourages me more to get back on track and log in...i appreiate that you took the time to share this blog because I hate doing this by myself. I just want to be healthy and feel good about myself and I am TIRED OF FAILING AT THIS. So, thanks for caring and sharing the support.
    1646 days ago
  • NEWNANCY2012
    Thank you so much for being so caring and honest in your blogs. This Maintenance team has made me feel good about myself at the weight that I need to be instead of comparing myself to others. I have been with Sparkpeople since January 2007. I was so happy I had lost 56 lbs. in a year recording my weight daily and journaling in 2006. When I joined SP I just wanted to be below 200 lbs, within a week I reached my goal. Over the last 6 years I have continued to log into SP daily to get the encouragement to stick with it no matter what happens.
    1646 days ago
    Thanks for your post. I think it's everything we all feel and I am glad u were able to share that.
    Have a wonderful Friday!
    1646 days ago
    WOW!!! very well said! emoticon
    1646 days ago
    Thank you!
    1646 days ago
    Loosing friends in whatever field or job or just a spark buddy is hard to accept...what we have to keep emphasizing is that we all have or ups and downs moments and the worse thing we can do is stop caring about ourselves and our diet and our exercises.. there are days we all don't want to do what's right for ourselves...and its ok and acceptable...never be so a shame as to quit...quitting makes you a looser in so many different ways...

    In life we all play a part in helping someone get through a crisis...if you're reading this or someone tells you about someone who is having a tough time...reach out to them and pull emoticon them back to our site.

    1646 days ago
    Great message. Thanks for sharing.
    1646 days ago
    I met a friend here named DLBROWNJACKSON when I first joined Spark People...she was so kind and I bonded with her. One day she told me she was having computer problems and she gave me some expensive goodie to use up her points, wrote me a goodbye note and cleared her account. I still check to see if she has rejoined....it has been years now. I still miss her. emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1646 days ago
    Wise words !
    1646 days ago
    Love this!
    1646 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.