Friday, July 18, 2014

Grief In The Age Of Social Media

My coworker died, having lost her 11 year battle with cancer. She left behind three teenage daughters and her husband, not mention a legion of family and friends.

The day she died, all of her friends, family, and other people associated with her put up a picture of her as their F.a.c.e.b.o.o.k. profile picture. These pictures have been up for a week now, flooding my feed. People are posting messages on her wall, leaving memories or saying goodbye; families members have been posting their own items, memories, photographs, and so on.

Every grieves in a different way. If this is how her immediate family and closest family needs to grieve, so be it. My cousin died last year, and every once in a while, his wife floods her F.B. account with pictures of him and memories. That's how she deals.

I was talking to Vor about this, and I consider him to be a reliable and knowledgeable source; he lost his father ten years ago. I mentioned to him that my coworker had left behind videos and gifts to be watched and opened on certain events, like prom, or a wedding, or the first of a grand baby. He looked upset. "I never would be as healthy as I am now if my dad had done that," he said, shaking his head. "The only reason you heal at all, or move on at all, is because of time. Having the wound reopened at every good memory? I couldn't have healed, moved on. Good memories, like of our wedding, would have that element of sad attached to them, even more than they did already." He sat, thinking. "I do wish I had more video of my dad. I wish I had messages form him about little things, every day things, memories. But it was sad enough at our wedding that he wasn't there. To have to watch, on that day, a message from him about sad he was that he couldn't be there? No."

I told him about the social media thing, with pictures of my coworker everywhere. He sighed. "It's so hard to move on, to forget things. Things follow us everywhere."

"Grief on social media is like a hydra," I told him. He laughed.

I don't know where I stand; I haven't lost someone from my immediate family in a long time. It's hard for me to watch this happen on F.B.; I don't think I need or want to grieve that way. But, although it is my loss, it's not my loss, and it certainly isn't my right to say this is right or wrong.

It's a new frontier on so many fronts, but this grief one is particularly hard to navigate.


Queen of Hats said...

I had to delete a dead friend from Facebook because the reminders of his birthday broke my heart. (He committed suicide.)

I don't understand grief by Facebook. I am the weirdo who likes going to the funerals of older people (whose deaths are expected) because they are celebrations and I get to see people I rarely otherwise see. (Not the same for funerals of young people, not at all.)

I keep a journal for my daughter, and have done since I was pregnant. I'm not very good about posting in it, and it's one of those things I'd either give her when she's in her 30s or ask someone else to make the determination if I wasn't around to. But the hand from beyond the grave at other events, strikes me as horrifying, too. I understand the urge, the tragedy of missing these events. But it's not one that should be honored, IMHO.

Swistle said...

I don't know for sure, but I feel agreement with your husband: if my mom had died when I was a teenager, I wouldn't want videos from her waiting for me like little grief bombs. Mayyyyyyyybe letters.

Grace said...

Little grief bombs. That's a really accurate description!