Thinking about grief over the death of a loved on, a loss of a job, a loss of a pet, and/or any other types of losses that we grieve throughout our life. And then I thought about how social media plays a role in our grieving today.
One of the first things I have noticed in this day and age is how often I hear death news via social media, particularly Facebook. I will simply be scrolling down my feed and will see that someone has died or a friend’s pet has died or someone has been given a terrible diagnosis or someone has lost his job — right there in a status update is often the most devastating news.
The second thing I notice is all of the people adding comments of sympathy, empathy, shared experiences, expressions of hope and faith, and more. Sometimes it is a tsunami of instant balm for a deep grief. Something about the “instant” and the “deep” do not seem to mesh for me, even though this is how we seem to get our news and respond these days.
There was one instance where a grade school friend of mine died very unexpectedly in a car crash headed to book group one night. This was years ago and so my friend had been in her mid-thirties and left several young children. I found the news out by her eldest child, who was around 7 years old, posting that he had lost his mommy and would now be handling her page. Wow! I was bowled over by this shocking news and felt overwhelmed for this little boy and her entire family.
Leaving a comment did not seem “right,” however, the only way I was connected to this person was through Facebook, so I posted a condolence message. I was grateful to have the news, and yet saddened that what I posted really could not convey the depth of my feelings.
It feels like grief in the era of social media has put us into some binds – ones that are often tough to navigate. As mentioned earlier, the depth of grief over such losses is often met with instant support that may come off as flippant given someone may have just found out about the loss while scrolling on their lunch break and feels like she has to say something kind before pushing on to the next update.
One thought is to wait a little while before commenting to compose what you want to say and then say it in a private message, email, or handwritten note and/or card. It may not be an instant offer of support, but taking your time to be present to your own emotions as well as to the one experiencing her grief is precious.
If you feel you need to comment, you could always write something that says something sympathetic and then an additional comment about how you will be reaching out to them in the future.
Although we live in an era of instant communication, grief is not instant. Remembering this and recognizing what we would want during our own times of pain and grief can help us better navigate learning devastating news while scrolling through our daily news feed.