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Grief and Social Media

Grief and Social Media

Have you learned of the 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 than face-to-face.
  • 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 our page.