Have you learned of a death on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?
Have you sent or been sent condolences on social media?
Have you not been able to attend a funeral in person, but were able to
attend by live streaming online?
The impact of social media touches all aspects of our lives, and, not to
be left out, the grief and mourning process has been greatly affected.
Before social media, grief and condolences were expressed in the form
of phone calls, cards sent through the mail, floral arrangements sent
to the funeral home or family’s home, with obituaries in newspapers
as the main means of notification. Thankfully, food is still something
friends and neighbors continue to bring the bereaved.
Today, the addition of “online” grief has added a new layer
to our mourning. Not only do we have the social media platforms to directly
express our grief, but we also have many online resources where we can
learn, share and heal from grief: blogs, YouTube series, grief websites
and Instagram feeds about loss, grief, and healing. Never has our society
been able to write, blog and video our feelings and/or advice about grief
in such large, free forums.
We need to be careful and always think of the immediate family before we
post. They are dealing with many emotions while trying to process the
death of a loved one. There have been numerous articles about someone
finding out about a family member’s death on social media. This
can be devastating and causes even more stress on the family. Imagine
right after a death getting a phone call or text trying to find out what
happened because someone posted about the death before the family has
been able to process it.
Benefits of social media during the grieving process:
- More access to friends, loved ones and family members. Many find it easier
and are more comfortable expressing condolences in written form rather
- Many posts include photos and memories that can be comforting and healing
to the bereaved. There may even be stories they’ve never heard before.
- It seems especially helpful for young adults, as social media is a way
of life for them. It has become a popular avenue to honor and grieve the
loss of a friend or loved one. Some individual Facebook profiles are kept
open after the person’s death so that friends and family can still
post on birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. This can be a wonderful
way for loved ones not to be forgotten.
As we move towards the future there will be a growing impact of online
grief and mourning. Let’s hope that it will become a more thoughtful
process providing comfort, support and healing.
Debbie Marushi, Bereavement Counselor, Mary Washington Hospice
For more information on Mary Washington Grief Support Services, please visit