I have a  group of friends that I share almost everything with.  They have seen me through good times and bad.  I have shared some of my most intimate secrets with them.  I’m sure most of you are thinking that seems pretty normal…that’s what friends do.  But the difference here is that I have never met most of then face to face.  Heck, I’ve never even SPOKEN to most of them but I still consider them some of my closest friends.

I guess I should give some background.  The Internet became a real big thing when I was in college.  During college and even after, I signed on to a few dating sites.  I met some great guys and some, umm, not so great guys.  One of those guys would become my husband.  After that, it didn’t take me long to find sites like iVillage where there were message boards for anything and everything.  I met several women through a message board for women in their 20s.  I am still friends with a couple of them today.  I met 3 other women through a weight loss board there.  Two of them are still my friends today.  In both cases, it’s been more than 10 years.

When B and I decided we wanted to start trying to have a baby almost 9 years ago, I found another message board, not on iVillage, for women who were trying to conceive their first child.  It also had a partner board for first time moms.  Those women soon became an everyday part of my life.  We saw each other through births, miscarriages, Divorces, the deaths of a couple of husbands and even through the heart transplant of the one of the babies.  We have never thought twice about calling each other “friend.”  The boards have grown, evolved and changed and are now for anyone trying to have to adopt a baby and for any mother.  And with the invention of Facebook, etc. we don’t always visit it as much but we are still part of each others lives.

As with most groups, we developed closer bonds with some rather than others.  I have a circle that I consider closer than the rest.  Some of them I have met face to face some of them I have spoken with on the phone or texted with.  ALL of them are good friends.  One of those friends, T, should have had her picture next to the definition of good friend.  Even though she struggled with her own issues, both physical and mental, she was always putting others first.  She was quick to send a card or a small gift to you, just because.  When I lost my last baby, even though she was going through a VERY tough time herself, she sent my family and me flowers even though we had never met face to face.  That was the kind of person T was.  She didn’t come around the board much anymore but we still kept in touch quite often.

A few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened.  T passed away very suddenly.  She was only 33 and left two children…a 5 year old girl and a 3 year old boy.  When a friend called me to tell me it had been posted on Facebook, we were both in denial…hoping it was a cruel joke.  But unfortunately, it wasn’t.  I went to the board to share the news and immediately, the outpouring of grief was immediate.  People who had strayed away came to pay their respects and share their memories.  People started brainstorming about something to do for her children and about places to donate in her memory.  I thought to myself “This is the definition of true friendship.  THIS is why after almost 9 years, these people are still my friends.”

One thing many of us said in the aftermath of T’s death was that a lot of people didn’t understand why we were so sad about someone we had never met.  For many of the women, even their husbands didn’t understand.  I know to us, it seems normal but to many others, it seems strange.  To me, this seems to be something that is becoming MORE normal.  With the invention of blogs, and social media like Facebook and Twitter, I think more and more people are meeting friends virtually.  I think people need to understand that even virtually, someone can be a good friend.  And more importantly, it’s normal to mourn the loss of one of those friends.

The pain of T’s loss is fading but our group has become closer which I didn’t even think was possible.  These women remain part of my everyday life even after almost 9 years.  I hope they all know how much I love and appreciate them and I hope to be friends for many more years to come.