A friend of mine asked me to write this post, as, in response to the recent deaths of two people in the Chicago theater community, her social media feed was filled with condolences to the family and memories of the ones who died. So we’re going to talk about social media and grief.
Like it or not, social media is here to stay. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes have become part of our daily lives. It allows us to keep in contact with friends all over the world, to follow our favorite sports teams or celebrities, and to share our life events with others. And these life events are not just birthdays, weddings, and births but deaths and other losses as well. Social media has changed all of our lives in many ways, including how we grieve. Here are some thoughts:
First and foremost, go ahead and share these life events. (But please first make sure that those closest to the person or you are informed personally by telephone or in-person.) Life is not just about the good times and too often the public image we portray on social media is overly positive. Bad days happen, death happens, miscarriages happen. Our social media should reflect life. And if it makes others uncomfortable, so be it…life is not always comfortable.
Sharing these events allows others to support you and allows you to receive the support of others. You are not alone. Too often social media gets a bad rap for leading to a disconnect in our personal relationships. Yet this is a time when we can receive or give support, love, and understanding to all those within our social circle near and far.
Social media provides an outlet for collective grieving and emotional connection, whereby everyone can come together whether they knew the person or not and mourn. This can be extraordinarily powerful. It can help everyone slow down, take a step back, and reflect on what is really important in life.
Social media also allows for posting memories and testimonials of the life that was lived, a virtual scrapbook, which can help in the healing process.
In terms of responding to posts, be mindful. A simple, “I’m thinking of you” will suffice. Do not say “It will get better” or some other such attempt at comforting, as the person might not yet be ready to hear that. Also, if you experienced something similar, it is okay to mention that as it helps the person experiencing the loss know that they are not alone. Yet, do not go overboard. This is about them, not you, so do not minimize their loss.
Finally, take a break. You may find it overwhelming to read all the posts and you may need to tune out of social media for a bit. That is okay. Social media will always be there when you are ready to return.
Do you have additional thoughts? Share in the comments section below.