They have legal rights. Society views them as the primary mourners. Most people will take their cues from the family, as far as appropriate ways to mourn.
But what about you? What about the friends?
Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn – are part of our lives. Some people are more invested in it than others, for social and/or business reasons. But it affects most of us in some way.
So it stands to reason that the subject of expressing our grief online would be a topic of discussion and controversy: Should a death be announced online? That debate has been brewing for a while and won’t go away anytime soon.
The issue is a touchy one, especially for those unsure about how to use social media in a respectful way.
Facebook and Twitter in particular are great for spreading information quickly. I’ve learned about friends who were in accidents, had surgery, and yes, who died. And while seeing the news on my computer screen was jarring and upsetting, it would have been jarring and upsetting had I found out by phone, mass email, or in person.
So I was delighted to read an article that actually gives thoughtful guidelines about setting up a Facebook tribute page. That’s a page devoted to a person who has died – often a friend – giving people a chance to express their feelings in a safe group setting.
As Steve Jacobsen, Executive Director of Hospice of Santa Barbara acknowledges:
“These online tributes can be powerful tools for bereaved people to communicate with each other and to act as a bridge with others.”
But how to do that in a way that respects your friend, as well as their friends and family? Among the “do’s and don’ts”, Jacobson’s organization offers these tips:
Post a link to your loved one’s memorial page on your page. Sometimes it can take a while before news reaches people’s ears, so posting the link to their memorial wall will let you sensitively announce their death and encourage people to express their grief. (A terrific solution to the shock of seeing the announcement pop up in your news feed)
If the deceased had a friend or relative you did not get along with, do not make rude or aggressive comments towards that person on your loved one’s Facebook wall. (Seems obvious, but in our grief, we can say things we shouldn’t)
There is definitely a generational issue here, as far as deeming this appropriate. But online grieving – including Facebook memorial pages – is not going away anytime soon.
Where do you stand?
You can read the entire article, with more thoughtful suggestions, in the Santa Barbara Independent.
And here are a wide range of opinions on online grieving from USA Today, Mourning Becomes Electric.