Whether we want to or not, we all have to deal with grief at some point. What’s more, we usually have to deal with it numerous times in our lives. Saying we have to deal with it is also quite misleading. It makes it sound like a one-time event where you stare it in the face and get over it. Rather, grief is a mix of emotions we feel over time with ups and downs as we grow accustomed to that which is now missing in our lives. However much we might want to be left alone to mourn in peace, it is actually a process that we should not face completely by ourselves. Sharing our grief and our memories of passed loved ones is part of the grieving process that we, as humans, need. It’s part of the reason we have a funeral that family members, friends, and co-workers can usually attend – it is a socially acceptable, public display of our grief. These days, with social media being an integral part of most of our lives, it has also become a place where we share our grief. But how should we go about it?
Who posts first?
This is probably the biggest issue that can, and has, arisen regarding posting about a deceased loved one on social media. There are countless stories of people that have lost a spouse, parent, or child and while they are still reeling from the news, they receive calls of either sympathy for their loss, or anger from people that should have been told in person or on a phone call. And all this because a friend or more distant family member chose to leave a beautiful tribute on Facebook.
Death leaves responsibility in its wake. Someone needs to take responsibility for letting the authorities know the person has passed, having the body collected and an autopsy performed (should one be necessary). Someone needs to take responsibility for organising a funeral and dealing with the loved one’s belongings. Someone needs to take responsibility for letting all the family and close friends know. If you are not responsible for any of these arrangements and tasks, you definitely don’t have the privilege of posting the first tribute on social media. So, who does?
If a spouse died, then the surviving spouse has that honour. If a last surviving parent passed, the kids should be granted the opportunity to talk amongst themselves about who will post a tribute. If a child died, the parents should be allowed to make it known on social media. It seems clear that the closest direct family can post first or at least be given the time they need to talk to each other and decide how the death announcement and/or tribute will be shared.
What do you post?
Once it is clear who should be posting first, the next question is what you should post.
If you are the individual sharing the first post on social media about the person’s passing, you should keep in mind that the news may shock people, regardless of whether the deceased was elderly or young, sickly or in perfect health. Your post isn’t just a sharing of fond memories; the purpose is to inform people of the sad news as well. You need to strike the right balance between these two focal points.
If you are posting about the loved one after this initial post, the most important thing you need to do is respect the family and deceased. It can be beautiful to share one of your favourite photos you have with the deceased and a short message or memory. It is not so beautiful if you are taking selfies at the funeral and sharing that all over social media.
The grief we feel at the passing of a loved family member or friend is a shared emotion. Social media can be a wonderful source of healing if we use our platforms wisely. As in everyday life, it can be a space to connect with people we would not otherwise be able to see or meet up with. If we can respectfully connect with other people that knew the deceased, we can share memories and feel more of that human connection that we truly need during our lowest moments.