How to Grieve on Facebook: Wearing Black in A Virtual World

The internet has changed our lives so much. From the way we interact, to the way we learn, and even the way we shop. You can do ALMOST anything online, and now we’re beginning to see people grieve there as well.

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Photo Credit: www.mothernewyork.com

I recently read an article that advocated for the return of the traditional act of “wearing black” when in mourning. While I don’t think the idea will quite catch on again, this sense of needing to be known in the public as someone in grief is a very important idea and one that social media is now meeting.

In just the last 3 months I’ve encountered friends & strangers grieving via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Blogs. A friend of mine shared pictures of her grandfather at the hospital surrounded by family and shared that it was going to be a tough couple of days. Her next post (several days later) was at his funeral and showed her grandmother receiving the American Flag in honor of his military service. Her photos were amazing in that they offered up to her online friends very private images of what she was experiencing. Her sharing also allowed many people to share their condolences, offer prayers, and words of comfort.

Another friend of mine recently lost his 5 year-old son to an illness. Within hours of the loss, this heart-torn father announced on Facebook what had happened and how much he loved his son in the most profound, beautiful, and meaningful posts I’ve ever read. A day or two later the uncle composed a beautiful blog recounting his fun times with his nephew, stories & memories. Needless to say, the responses to these were overwhelming and we got to gather as an online community with these two men and just mourn this little life taken far too soon. They recently put up a second post talking about how beautifully the funeral was, you can read it here.

There are now lots of Facebook pages available to mourning families that are intended as places to share how you are doing, what your story is, and commune with others experiencing similar loss. There are pages for grieving mothers and fathers, siblings in grief, families who have lost someone to suicide, and others like The Empty Chair that aren’t grief-specific but still wonderful places to share & be encouraged.

I recently came across a different post from a woman I’ve known for many years who posted the following:

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Photo Used with Permission

Here are some of the responses she received:

 

“I was just thinking about her this morning! She was such a wonderful woman!”

and

“Right with you sister.”

This recognition, acknowledgement, and validation of her feelings was most certainly a comforting & valuable experience in her grief. And you know what, no one had to trouble her for her address to send her a card, no one failed to “say the right thing,” and most importantly, all the responses she received showed that she wasn’t alone in her thoughts or feelings.

When you see someone grieve online don’t be afraid to share, validate and encourage them. Make sure to check our guide out on things “not to say” if you’re a bit worried, but just know that even “Liking” someone’s status can mean the world to them and show them that there are others out there who care about & love them.

 

What powerful ways have you seen grief online?

 

Have you ever grieved through Facebook or some other social media?

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I’m Molly and I write for the blog here at O’Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who’s deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try.
Work at O’Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.
I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

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  • Anne

    Molly,
    Thank you for this post. I AM grieving now. Just moments ago, we fit me miraculously somehow alongside Lou in his hospital bed and I asked him how to pray this morning. “Pray for God to Take Me” was his response. I prayed for that and for everything I could think of that might bother him in leaving. He is very protective of me and his family. He is extremely concerned for me and my welfare on every level. We prayed for my safety and provision, we prayed for each member of our family and their walk with God, everything that came to mind. Then he said “Amen” and I somehow extrapolated myself and Lou went into a peaceful sleep.
    We grieve before our loved ones leave, during the illness and wasting process in our case, but in many ways. I just posted last night a thank you to FB for providing the means to give progress and receive prayers and support. Nothing can make it better, but social media and emails have helped immensely to immediately let someone know you need help and what is needed.

    • Dear Anne,
      My goodness what an amazing moment to have with Lou. The beauty and Christ-centeredness of your marriage has been an incredible thing to witness. Your trials, this one in particular, breaks our hearts as we see your broken but pours out blessings upon us as well. Your rich love, a love that goes beyond this life for each other is rare and comes at great cost. I love you Anne, and I love Lou. I will be echoing your prayers in my own and I, like you, am so grateful for this way of communicating & sharing. Grieve away and don’t let anyone stop you. I know our comments to you don’t change anything, but we want to connect, love and support you in any way we can.

      May you have moments of peace in all of this and know that the Lord is with you.

  • GREG FORSTER

    Molly,

    I think this was a wonderful and very timely post. For those of us for whom an electronic calculator, the first cell phone, and then the personal fax machine was our entree in to the new world of electronic “Future Shock”, this blog entry serves as a compelling reminder that, yes, we do not need to be afraid of tech tools. We, as human beings, are indeed the masters of the technology that we create. We create new things that in turn present their own challenges. What a terrific thing it is when we turn something “electronic” and un-human into something that is totally human and that has the most compelling ability to connect us all, on our own level, in the way that we choose to do so, and do this instantly for the whole world to see, but if we just want to….if we just want to…

    Thank you,

    Greg

    • Greg,
      I absolutely love your comment! There is such a tendency to snub and negate online interactions and you’re completely right in saying that this is a positive and wonderful way for people to express & communicate. As humans we have the ability to humanize any experience, even a virtual one on a machine.

      Thank you so much for reading and adding your own charming and thoughtful insight. When are we going to get a blog from you??!

      Molly

  • Jeff Turner

    Molly,

    It is so interesting that you chose to write about this. It is something that I have taken for granted that people are using social media just as you have highlighted. The significance though, was lost on me until you articulated it in this blog. How fascinating to try to step back from it and gain the perspective you shared. Thank you. I just keep learning from you more everyday.

    Jeff

    • You are too kind! I think, like many people, the monotony of Facebook has irritated me at times, posts seem sometimes to be just all about how great our life is, how we seem to have everything together, how we want to be perceived. There’s all that noise on Facebook constantly, but when I came across the posts I talked about above, Facebook took on a valuable purpose. It is such a great tool of communication, but too often what we communicate is meaningless or pointless. That’s why these posts and the reactions to them are so important and such a healthy thing to see online. We are “humanizing” this virtual world as Greg said.

      Thank you so much for reading and gleaning something from this blog. I so, so appreciate your point of view & responses.

      Molly

  • Hi Molly –

    This is an interesting time to say the least with social media, we are looking at life and death from another perceptive.
    From our O’Connor Mortuary website online memorials to Facebook updates we can still feel connected in this disconnected world at times. Many times we have not a clue what to do or say when a death occurs, yet social media can be a very safe place to express our feelings as we get a change to think about what we want to say. Many times we are finding out first hand that a death has occurred via social media. There is comfort in community and sometimes we cannot always be in person for our friends when a death occurs, web-casting is another form of support when you cannot be there in person. Go to funerals they can help change your life . . .

    • Thanks Neil,
      I agree with you completely that this is a changing time for our profession, one where we need to look to embrace the connectedness that social media can bring rather than condemn it for the absence of face-to-face. Web-casting is a great tool, one we should write about soon! Thanks so much for reading & sharing your own thoughts.

      Molly

  • Molly,

    Great post and as others have noted, very timely for us and our profession. I have to admit I am a dinosaur when it comes to the tech and social media world. I relish the time when I’m face to face with some one or some group and get to feel their energy with me. That being said social media allows many to act and communicate in a very short time frame. This aspect by itself is very powerful and can quickly surround someone with love, encourgement and support. So you may not be physically feeling their energy but I believe you still are receiving it via the net. I look at it as another tool in the told box to help us move forward and connect to people that we other wise would not connect with due to distance, finances or even courage. I still believe nothing replaces being there, attending a funeral is not what anyone wants to do but it shows your compassion and love to the family and the people grieving. But when we cannot, social media helps fill that void like no other in our history.

    Chuck

    • Chuck,
      So well said and I 100% agree with you. I love your point about the lightning quickness of social media – while news has never taken long to travel, it’s almost instantaneous now. And we can respond to an immediate need for care & recognition in a way that doesn’t suffocate or overwhelm the bereaved person.
      You’re so right about going to the funeral, you just have to go and no Facebook post can quite excuse you from that sacred honor & duty.

      Thanks so much for your comment!!

      Molly