I had a friend whom I met online, who seemed to disappear from the internet almost a year ago. I do not know anyone else who also knew her. She is a person I had known for some years, who I met up with in person to catch up on things once in a while, and chatted online with from time to time.

Some months ago I noticed that she had stopped replying to my messages, which was unusual and unexpected. I then noticed that I could not find an active online presence from her anywhere, and when I tried to call, noticed that her phone number was delisted. I was afraid that she may have died, but could not find an obituary anywhere, and I hoped that this suggested she may well be alive, since online advice suggested an obituary would be available if not, and because for others I have known who have died their obituaries are easy to find. I sent her an email simply asking to notify if she was still alive, but sadly got no reply. She had previously been placed in a mental hospital for some months, and I thought perhaps she was there again or otherwise away from an ability to reply to my messages. But I also knew that despite being a young woman in her early thirties, the month or so before she apparently disappeared she had been recovering from some health problems which had constrained her to a hospital for some time, and I was afraid that they might have worsened again to the point of claiming her life. At one point I even drove to her house and knocked on the door, but the stranger who was then living there said she had no knowledge of the previous owner as the house had been vacant a few months before when she bought the place and moved in.

Now I've found that my friend has indeed died, as she is listed as deceased in an obscure "notice to creditors" document I managed to find. She died 10 months ago which was when I noticed her replies had ceased. The last time I saw her was a couple months prior, when she was attempting to recover from the health problems after the hospital stay.

This person had a positive impact on my life, and I am sad that she is suddenly gone from the earth and from my life. I am looking to find some closure, and feel that I need more information for that. I think what I would most like to know is however she died, whether there was a time of opportunity I missed where I could have helped her through it, by at least letting her know that she is cared about. I hope this information is not too personal for me to inquire about, as I do not want the circumstances of her death to be left to my imagination.

As mentioned I am not familiar with anyone from her social circle. I am considering writing an email to one of her family members to explain that I knew her and to ask about any information they would want to share, but also want to be respectful of their privacy. She had briefly introduced me to her brother a long time ago, but I have not been given his contact information, and think I would feel more comfortable contacting her father, whom it was that listed the notice to creditors publication. I knew that she had a positive relationship with her father, and he has to some degree invited contact on the topic by placing his information on that publication. Though, his intent in publishing that was of course different than the purpose of my response to it would be. But also, I think that in general a parent is in more of a position to field contact from his child's social affiliations and may be more inviting to my contact for that reason. I think if I were in his position, I would at least not mind receiving respectful contact from a person who cared about my deceased family member enough to ask about it, and might even be happy to hear from such a person.

I think that I would be able to write a letter in email to her father, but want to be careful to do so as respectfully as possible. An outline of what I have in mind would be to: state that I knew her and express my condolences; explain that my reason for contacting is that I am a friend who is not connected to others in her social circle and thus did not have confirmation of her death until noticing the creditors document; ask whether an obituary was published or some way that that I can come to understand the circumstances of her death or anything about her the family feels comfortable sharing; and to express gratitude in advance for any such information he would feel comfortable replying with or linking to, and that it is okay if they don't want to share or reply at all to me since they don't know me.

On a personal note, I feel an urge to know more than just the circumstances of her death, I'm not sure exactly what -- perhaps this is just a normal feeling of miss that comes from losing a person. I don't know whether it is normal to sometimes not write an obituary upon a person's death, so that the public can at least hear a bit about them and that they have died. It has been anxious to be in limbo not knowing what happened to her, but I cannot blame anyone for not publishing an obituary that I've been able to find; I realize that the loss of a person can sometimes be paralyzing to dealing with that kind of thing.

How much of what I've mentioned in this post should I share as I write the letter? I welcome any advice to help me be as respectful and effective as possible in this situation as I try to understand and come to terms with this loss.

  • Hello user21595, welcome to the site. I am sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, your question as it is, is not quite suitable for the site. Making a question that is on topic on the site can be difficult, especially the first time. It may get put on hold, but you can edit it to make it on topic and we can help if you want. See this meta question for some guideance: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3224/… – Belle Sep 10 '18 at 7:00
  • There is also interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3129/… to help you ask a question. There's quite a few people on there that can and will help you to get your question suitable for the QA format. – Belle Sep 10 '18 at 7:06

I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

In death, especially if circumstances had been less than ideal immediately prior, parents tend to welcome news of positive influence their daughter had on others. Their child has passed on, leaving them with just memories. You’re looking for closure, but it can be healing for them to hear the good legacy their daughter has left.

In your email, consider talking about some of the interactions you had and in what way she was a positive influence on you, then ask if you could visit. You can sit with them, reminiscing about their daughter and your friend. I feel that asking for an obituary in an email would seem insensitive. Much of what you’re seeking will likely come up more naturally in conversation when you visit.

Everyone deals with grief in their own way, and it might be the case that your friend’s father doesn’t want to talk about things. In that case, just ask where you can go to pay her your last respects. This would also be a form of closure for you.

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