Mourning Someone I Never Met

It actually hurts to write these words…

Fellow blogger Ashley L. Peterson has died. I can’t recall exactly when and how we connected, but somehow, we came to be regular readers and commenters for each other.

I admired Ashley for her well-written, well-researched posts. She had a way of looking at issues from unique angles. I wasn’t writing a mental health blog, and as someone who dealt with depression-type feelings, but not in a formally diagnosed way, Ashley’s blog covered topics that weren’t necessarily ones that I had personal experience with. And yet, I was drawn to Ashley’s engaging, authentic, accessible writing style. She never shied away from difficult taboo topics, and she wrote with openness and honesty.

As a commenter, Ashley was a supportive friend. She was the type of person who read all your posts in detail and responded with thoughtful, genuine comments to each one. My blog is a Jewish blog (that granted, mostly doesn’t meet that goal), not a mental health or mental illness blog, and yet Ashley responded to my posts that were outside of her primary areas of interest. And judging by the responses from fellow bloggers, she was capable of maintaining such friendships with so many people.

But I also valued her wicked sense of inappropriate humor. She and I both shared that same “yup, we just went there” bawdy humor. She instinctively knew when I needed my feelings validated and when I needed to joke about erotic literature fails and lighting Chanukah candles in the buff. I will miss Ashley’s humor as much as her support.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Friday Night

Because I’m not 100% Shabbat observant anymore, and because I was still online after candle-lighting, I knew about Ashley’s death Friday night before I went to Shabbat dinner. Husband and I were going to a large Shabbat dinner at the synagogue. And in a cosmic alignment type way, the same night I learned of Ashley’s death, I walked past “Joyce’s” house en route to the synagogue, and I saw that “Joyce’s house” was for sale.

As many of you already know, Ashley is, sadly, not the first friend I’ve lost to severe clinical depression.

Of course, the house wasn’t really Joyce’s and it hadn’t been for a long time. I gave the house key that Joyce had given me back to “Ezra” days after her suicide because I was no longer comfortable keeping it; it was no longer appropriate. Also, the exterior of the house looked renovated. Not a “knock the house down and rebuild a new one”, but still, significant differences visible even at night. It wasn’t the same house. But it brought up strange feelings.

There aren’t many similarities between Ashley, a blog friend who knew so much about me, and yet whom I’d never met, and Joyce, a friend whose house I visited all the time, whose food I ate and clothing I wore – except that they died of the same cause. The biggest similarity was perhaps the feeling that I couldn’t talk about either’s death with offline (I hate the term IRL) friends and acquaintances. How could I possibly explain to synagogue friends that I was feeling down because I’d just learned that a fellow blogger, whom I knew through my anonymous blog and never met, (and oh by the way, I have an anonymous blog), had died by suicide?

I couldn’t. So just like I did the day of Joyce’s suicide on the same day as my sister’s wedding, I compartmentalized. I had to. I drank a lot of wine at Shabbat dinner. And honestly, I had a genuinely good time at the Shabbat dinner. Big Party Judaism Extrovert that I am, I’ve been looking forward to large Shabbat dinners like this forever, and I enjoyed it. What else could I do?

Blogging and Friends

When does blogging transition to friendship? Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

When does a blogger become a friend? Even setting aside the constraints of geography, most of us wouldn’t become friends had we met in offline life. We’d write off friendship due to age difference or some other demographic. In my case, I refuse on principle to befriend anyone younger than me or within 10 years of my age who is a parent of small children (yes, I am a bitch). But mostly, it’s because in offline life, it’s difficult to strip away the outer differences that act as a boundary towards connecting on a real level.

Blogging strips away a lot of that.

Ashley never knew my name, what I look like, or where I live, and yet she knew all about my significantly flawed marriage and how when I’m feeling really depressed, I can’t bring myself to shower.

But there’s a lot that we don’t know still. I thought I knew Ashley – guinea pigs, past travels and nursing career, psychomotor retardation, soft atheism, past suicide attempts and hospitalizations, penchant for language, sense of humor. But there was a lot that I didn’t know. I didn’t know exactly how much she was struggling. I didn’t know her October 9 post about spammy blog followers would be her last. Even before I posted that I was taking a break from blogging, I couldn’t manage the time commitment nor the energy for blogging and blog-reading/commenting in between the Jewish holidays and work. Is there a like, a comment, a post, an email that had I managed to send before that time that could have convinced her to keep living? Probably not, but I’m kicking myself anyway. By the time I did email, as I’ve done in the past, it was too late. Ashley’s family confirmed what many of us in the blog world already suspected, but didn’t want to say out loud.


I don’t think ours deserves the label of close friendship. Still, I valued the blog-friendship we had and I am so sad that it is gone.

Wishing Ashley’s family and friends comfort and peace. ❤️


  1. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. I think I understand a little of how blog friendships work and I’m convinced they are no less real than the necessarily more complete and complex relationships we keep “in real life.” I have always read Ashley’s comments and always appreciated her insights and, as you say, her humor–it is truly a loss, partly because we can appreciate the intellect at work behind her words, and mostly because we become friends with others and that’s just what we do.
    Internet friendships are an interesting concept, and maybe the only true Platonic relationships out there. Whatever, they are certainly real.
    Just thought of this: a long time ago I once wondered, somewhere, if the Internet suddenly went away, how many of us would continue corresponding using paper and pen? A dismal thought, but maybe reason to appreciate the Internet despite all.
    Here’s to a good weekend second half.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. That is so sad. I’m so sorry to read this. I was talking to my new data analyst about friendships last week. She is 18 years-old and quite social. I told her that almost all my friends and virtual. The friends I grew up with, and we used to do everything together, I only see every once in a while. I lot of friends have moved or died or both. One close friend’s wife ruined our relationship, so we see each other every two or three years. Another friend and I get together for lunch every six months to catch up. Another friend I see when he’s in town, but we do talk on the phone quite often. It’s amazing in the days of email and text, I hardly ever talk to people on the phone these days. That’s it for my in-person interaction with friends. Three friends I see very occasionally. I had a couple other local friends, but covid ruined those relationships. All of my friends are virtual (that might make a good song). Wife and I have one or two mutual friends we see occasionally.

    For me, virtual friendships are real, because that’s pretty much all I have. One benefit to virtual friends is you don’t have to deal as much with the externalities that come up with in-person relationships. I think it hurts just as much when virtual friends die, death is so final for the living, and suicide makes the loss more even difficult to deal with.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I agree with you. Virtual friends can be real friends. Sometimes more real than offline friends. There are plenty of problems with technology, but the ability to connect with others unlimited by geography is something incredible.

      Suicide is particularly painful on the family and friends because you know the deceased chose it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. JYP, very sorry for the loss of a blogger friend. I’d f eel the same. My virtual friends mean as much to me as my real friends. I know their names and their histories. We are connected and we support one another in writing and in life. I still think about those that have passed on. It seems doubly hard for you about Ashley. Mourning the space in between your last connection with her and learning about her death. It’s impossible to know if your words in that space would have made any difference. It’s hard to accept mental health & medical problems that close out support at some point. And we are convinced everything is fine because they say everything is fine. From reading this post, you’ve had more than your share of friends lost. My prayers for peaceful thoughts are for you. And Rest In Peace for Ashley. 🙏🎶💙 Christine

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I can’t believe it. I guess I should but it’s still so shocking to think she’s not here. When she didn’t post for a while I thought maybe she went to the hospital but when the absence continued I got really worried. I keep reading the last post and comments. There was one commenter who was saying to Ashley I love you so much, I’m so glad you’re here, and she had no idea what was to happen shortly after. It’s so upsetting. I’ve cried on and off about it the last couple days. All I can do is commend her soul to God.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I’ve been quite depressed for the last twenty-four hours, since hearing after Shabbat. She is the first friend I’ve had who has died and I don’t know what to think or do. I’m not sure what to say (to you, to me, to anyone). When I realised how long she hadn’t blogged or commented for, I had a horrible feeling what had happened (I am a pessimist and a catastrophiser), but I carried on davening for her in the hope I was wrong. I wanted to email her, but I didn’t, because I knew she didn’t like the attention when she was depressed. That now feels like the wrong decision, even though it would have been too late even if I had emailed (by the time any of us could have realised something was wrong, it was too late, and I suspect that was her deliberate intention). Barukh dayan ha’emet.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh, I believe online friendships are very real, albeit different to offline ones. To be honest, I probably manage online friendships better than offline ones, although people can and have moved between the two, in both directions (most notably, but not only, E).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for articulating what I’m sure many of us are struggling to talk about. A blog friend is someone of significance and value just as much as real life friends. I didn’t have a lot of interaction with Ashley but she was always there and supportive of my blog with likes and comments on occasion. I looked forward to reading her consistently informative blogs that were always marked by her forthrightness. Sad about this..and also have that feeling of wishing I had known more so I could have commented more on her blogs and been supportive within that space. May she rest in peace..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m so sorry for your loss. This is heartbreaking. Ashley and I had only been following each other for a few months or so, but in that short amount of time, I’ve looked up to her. She was such a great writer and inspiring person. She will be missed by so many people.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I considered Ashley one of my better blogging friends ~ we had emailed some and were supportive of each other’s books. After some days of no likes and comments I began to notice. I assumed she’d been hospitalized as before because I clearly remember her posting recently that she was not in imminent danger and she’d know if she was. Of course, we can lie on our blogs. Or maybe she was not lying and the despair came upon her suddenly ~ I have no idea. Though, with hindsight, her last few posts were odd. And, like you, I wish I could have said something. I wish I’d given her my phone number, not that she would have called, probably. It’s such a great loss… I can’t even imagine how devastated her family is. Just awful…

    Until the last several years, I didn’t really have meatspace (that’s the term I use instead of “real life” or IRL) friends I could confide anything important to, so all my true closeness was via online friendships. That’s gradually changed since my divorce, but I can attest to the fact that online friendships can indeed be real. And just like meatspace ones, they can also fade away to nothing…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My condolences. You’ve said so many important things here – about relationships, knowing and value. Appreciate your point of view. I’ve made some good friends in the online poetry space and though I know nothing except what we share through poetry and the odd email or two, they bring something immeasurable to my life, sometimes more than offline connects. Thanks for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The online connections aspect was something I totally didn’t expect when I started this blog. One of my primary reasons for having an anonymous blog is because I was always taught that everyone online must be assumed to be a scammer or something; I truly never expected to meet people whom I would come to consider to be friends

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear JYP,

    My heart sinks reading your words. I’m so sorry for your loss of such an amazing human being and blogging friend. I hear you, get you and love that our blogging community holds space for our feelings and love of our friendships we have developed where most people would deem us nuts.
    That must be hard being anonymous as well. Although it might seem hard for some to feel the difference between the tangible verses the intangible there is a connection that is not visible to the naked eye.
    It’s uncanny that she lost her life to fight for the very thing she tried to help heal for others. Her books are gifts of her legacy pasted down. I too lost a friend here to Covid where we wrote in her Anthology that she was in the process of writing. Perhaps you all could write a book together to honor her life and comfort her family.
    Sending you lots of love and blessings to you and your family as you mourn her loss that happened way too soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Blogging comrades are still a new concept to me. I do become concerned when some regular bloggers fail to post for a long time without prior notice. When they resume posting, I feel a sense of relief.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I can’t help but kick myself about it too. I didn’t know her offline either, but it doesn’t mean I’ll do my best to treat them like they were regardless. Online or not, they have my attention, respect and every other package when I’m interacting with them.

    Hope you and your husband are safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for this beautiful tribute to Ashley. You have expressed so well what many of us “silent bloggers” feel. Yes, I am starting to understand online friendships and relationships in general. They feel very real now.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. You’ve accurately described something I recently talked about on someone else’s blog: developing blogging friends. There are quite a few people I’ve met blogging, who I feel closer to, simply because I know their lives and they know mine. Anywho, I know how you feel and I’m sending condolences. Death is hard, whether we really “knew” the person or not ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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