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Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren grieving via Twitter, Facebook after son's suicide

Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, California), speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Sept. 26, 2008 in New York.
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren has not delivered a sermon at his Lake Forest church since his son's suicide April 5. Warren is grieving openly on Twitter and Facebook. He and his wife, Kay, have started a petition drive as part of what Warren describes as a new mental illness ministry.

Since the death of his son April 5, Orange County-based Pastor Rick Warren has not led a sermon at his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. But, he's been talking to his congregation through Twitter and Facebook.

His online,  or social media,  grieving has a message. Read some of this tweets below.

"Jesus started with the original twelve, he called them his disciples.  Disciple just means follower or learner," Rick Warren preached at an Easter Sunday sermon at the Saddleback Church.

It was the last time the popular evangelist preached to his 22,000 member congregation before his adult son, Matthew, took his own life.  

Warren, the best-selling author of "The Purpose-Driven Life" has nearly one-million Twitter followers.   

Since his son's death, Warren is more visible online than in the pulpit.  He tweets -  sometimes more than 10 times a day - short, reflective messages thanking followers for their condolences.

"Kay and I are overwhelmed by your love, prayers, and kind words. You are all encouraging our broken hearts," is one recent tweet from Warren.  

"I think we're going to be seeing more and more of this, not only for celebrities, but our everyday lives," said religious history professor Gary Laderman of Emory University in Atlanta.

Laderman writes about how people grieve.  He said Warren's long reach through social media is therapeutic for others grieving, too.

"To really affect people, and to help bring not closure, but to help people work through the process of dealing with something as difficult as this," said Laderman.

Matthew Warren, 27, shot himself at his Mission Viejo home. He suffered from mental illness and depression.

The Warrens say Matthew was one of about eleven-million American adults afflicted with severe forms of mental illness in the past year.   

Matthew's mother Kay tweeted last week that one book in particular helped the family cope with the illness.  

"They tried so hard to help him, the whole family tried so hard and yet they hit the brick wall of the illness," said Valerie Porr, author of "Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder, a Family Guide for Healing and Change."  

Porr said she was overwhelmed by a phone call she received from Kay Warren, shortly after Matthew Warren's death.

"I could not believe this woman said this to me," Porr said. " She said 'don't worry, you're not going to lose me.  You're still going to come out here and do a workshop, so this doesn't happen to other people.' How do you say this to people after your son just died?"  

Porr believes it is that kind of compassion which recently led Rick and Kay Warren to launch a petition to raise awareness of mental illness.  

The couple is urging educators, lawmakers, healthcare professionals and church congregations to shine a light on the issue of mental health.

People are sharing news about the petition through Facebook and Twitter. 

Rick Warren continues to tweet about his son this week. 

"No death nor life, angels nor demons, nor anything else (like mental illness) can separate us from God's love in Jesus," Warren tweeted Thursday, April 25.

A Warren family spokeswoman says Rick Warren will likely not  preach at the Saddleback Church until August.

In the meantime, he recently tweeted that the sale of his son's home will fund what Warren wrote is a new "Mental Illness Ministry."

Read more of his tweets below: