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The Daily Dish The Real Housewives of New York City

The Phenomenon of Texting a Loved One After They Have Died Is Real

One grief counselor tells us we often need a continuation of the routine that we had with the deceased.

By Marianne Garvey
Bethenny Frankel Is Still Reeling From Dennis Shields' Death

Brian Austin Green is mourning the death of his former Beverly Hills, 90210 costar and friend Luke Perry after he died at age 52 following a massive stroke.

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“Luke was a special guy. I’m still mourning over it, so there’s a part of me that’s kind of shocked that I’m speaking about Luke this way,” Green said recently on his podcast. “We all knew that at some point we’d have to deal with losing cast members and friends, but not this soon. Not at 52. Not in such an abrupt way… Luke was one of those people nobody had a bad story about. He was just a great guy. And he was Luke no matter where you saw him, no matter when you saw him, no matter what he was going through. He was a rock.”

He went on to reveal how he’s been coping after the loss.

“I texted him after he passed, knowing obviously that he can’t text me back but on some level, hoping that he would text me back, or that he was out there somewhere,” Green revealed. “And I know he is. I know he’s looking down and I know he’s smiling.”

Perry died on March 4 in Burbank, California, five days after he suffered a massive stroke at his home in Sherman Oaks.

Bethenny Frankel has been using a similar coping mechanism following the death of her on-again/off-again boyfriend Dennis Shields, admitting on a recent episode of The Real Housewives of New York City that after her daughter Bryn asked if “Dennis still had a phone,” she decided to let her “text” him. Bethenny admitted she wrote him a letter over text herself, and felt strangely comforted.

Grief counselor Jill Cohen explained to Personal Space why that is. She said that “this phenomenon of texting loved ones after they have died is a real one.”

“It is, in a sense, a technology upgrade of the task of writing a letter to a deceased loved one,” she said. “The texting ritual can be seen as a continuation of a routine that the surviving person had with the deceased, so a way to keep up the relationship in a way that makes their loved one seem or feel present to them. It is also an expression of disbelief, as if to suggest that the person has not really died, which is a normal thought that comes with the experience of the death when it is a surprise and an unexpected one.”

Cohen said that while it feels helpful in the moment, the urge does eventually go away. “As time goes in and reality sinks in, the hope is that the constant texting or checking in with the deceased person will subside,” she explained.

But that’s not the hope for neuroscientists who are working on building digital duplicates of the deceased you can text for as as long as you’d like. One report explains that “the possibility of digitally interacting with someone from beyond the grave is no longer the stuff of science fiction.” But how?

“The technology to create convincing digital surrogates of the dead is here, and it’s rapidly evolving … in 'augmented eternity,' [the] program builds upon the digital archive a person has left behind: emails, texts, tweets, and even Snapchats. He feeds these into artificial neural networks, which are like model brains that understand language patterns and process new information. Thanks to the neural network’s ability to ‘think’ for itself, the person’s ‘digital being continues to evolve after the physical being has passed on.’ In this way, an augmented-eternity bot would keep aware of current events, develop new opinions, and become an entity that is based on a real person rather than a facsimile of who they were at their time of death.”

And they will text you back. Whoa.

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