Monday, November 30, 2009

R.I.P. on Facebook

This weekend I attended my beloved Uncle David’s funeral. He was an amazing man and I am grateful to have had him in my life. As the day’s that lead up to his death approached and his funeral and Shiva arrangements were put in place, I was confronted with the question personally and from others about what is appropriate in these circumstances when it comes to Facebook. Unfortunately, every reader of this blog has or will also be confronted with this question for themselves, and/or from their friends, family members, students. When it does, I hope these ideas are helpful.

Facebook provides members with unique ways to confront this difficult time in their lives. Here are some of the benefits I noticed during this difficult time.

We all know that many people have friends on Facebook with whom they may not have well-established friendships, but what I love about Facebook is that it provides an opportunity for me to make some fantastic and unexpected connections with people. This holds true for remembering a loved one. Posting a status update may elicit a response from friends with whom you may never have otherwise connected. These persons (thank you to Larry, Tonia, Kyle, Danika, Danita, Carolyn, Samantha, Ann, Susan) may bring unexpected comfort and camaraderie.

I am not sure if I'm alone, but I am uncomfortable sharing difficult situations in part because I’m afraid of how the other person may react. What if they dismiss what I’m saying? What if they act like they don’t care? What if they seem uncomfortable? What if I say something weird or wrong? Facebook provides a nice way to put a thought out there and kind of test the waters. Who can relate? Who wants to relate? Who might I not seem to be bothering? Who may I have a shared experience with? Who is out there, that I may not have thought of, but is really just the right person to communicate with?

If the close friend or family member of the loved one posts a comment as my cousin did, it not only helps the person grieving, but it helps their Facebook friends as well. My cousin posted the following about her father/my uncle.

During his last days:

...my dad

Upon his death:

I will miss you so so much


I was uncomfortable reaching out to my cousin during this time. I knew she was spending her days and nights juggling a job, taking care of her father and raising children. This gave me a bit of a green light to give her a virtual hug without feeling like I was a burden. It also allowed me to learn from the comments of others more about my uncle and how he impacted many of our lives similarly. I made virtual bonds and connections I never would have had. A warmth came over me and I knew exactly what she meant when I read this friend’s comment, “one of my favorites...so playful and fun, treated me like a little lady instead of a kid, brings a smile to my face when I think about him.”

Finally, for someone like me who doesn’t fancy herself as being too great at sharing these sorts of things with others, Facebook allowed me a comfortable and comforting way to do so.

My cousin did such an amazing job of sharing when delivering her eulogy yesterday. She was so strong and I was truly impressed. It was such a sad day and I was so proud of her composure in sharing her important message about her father with the congregation. My boyfriend remarked, “When you have that kind of relationship with your father, I imagine such fond memories are easy to come by and are eagerly shared.” After my Uncle’s funeral yesterday my cousin asked me, “Do you think it was bad that I posted about my Dad on Facebook?”

“No! I said. “Thank you so much for doing so. It helped me and others.” When I got home that evening I went to her wall and saw this message:

is relieved today is over...and having some good cuddle time with the kids while we watch Spongebob.

I smiled and hoped I had a part in letting her know what I perceived as her “got home safely” not only was okay, but was also appreciated by those who knew of her loss. Myself and some of her online friends commented. I wrote,

Amazing daughter. Amazing mother. Amazing cuz.


While I acknowledge Facebook is by no means a replacement for other ways of communicating, it provides for some, an important way to make a difficult time less difficult. I know this is an uncomfortable topic and I thought that like me, others may have wondered about this. I hope I’ve provided some helpful thoughts on this topic that may one day be helpful for you, a friend, loved one, or student.



This post is written in memory of my wonderful Uncle David who treated me like a lady even when I was a little girl. He was one of the rare individuals who made me (and many others) feel like I had valuable opinions that should be shared, heard, and responded to, even when, by societal standards, my age, gender, birthright, relationship status/history, or title may not have warranted it.

As my Uncle liked to say, "It is what it is," though many of us wish "It wasn't."
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