Cyber Grieving: Dealing with Death on Social Media

By: VGFS
Saturday, October 12, 2019

Social media has the power to simultaneously reach a vast network. When a death occurs, it can be a helpful tool for announcing the loss to friends and family, as well as for sharing plans for the funeral or memorial service. Social media platforms can allow grief-stricken loved ones to make a single announcement rather than rehashing the details over and over again via the phone. While the social landscape is still shifting, there are some basic rules of "netiquette” that should be followed. Here are some helpful do’s and don’ts for mourning online.

Don’t try to scoop the immediate family.

If you hear about a passing but haven’t seen a post from the decedent’s next of kin, they probably have their reasons for not making a public announcement. They may be working out the details, too distraught to take to social media, or trying to contact other relatives who need to hear the news first hand. You might feel an impulse to share the story with the world, but the initial announcement should be left to the deceased’s closest family. For example, if the person was married, wait for his or her spouse to post first. If the person was elderly and widowed or single, give their adult children or grandchildren time to post an announcement.

Don’t bombard the bereaved with messages.

If you aren’t a close relative or friend of the person who died, you might be anxious to find out more information. It can be tempting to want to ask the next of kin for details, but giving them space to grieve and take care of arrangements is of the utmost importance. Don’t overwhelm them with lots of calls, posts or texts, and don’t become impatient if they don’t reply quickly. While they may not have time to respond right away, it doesn't mean they don't appreciate your words of support.

Don’t use clichés.

When you’re trying to show support for someone who has just experienced a loss, avoid trite platitudes such as, “They’re in a better place” or “God has a plan”. It may come across as uncaring and insincere. If you’re at a loss for words, it’s better to admit it that you don’t know what to say. People will appreciate any genuine expression of sorrow for their pain.

Do keep in mind that there’s no one way to deal with loss.

When it comes to expressing grief, there’s no one ‘right way’ to go about it. Everyone handles the experience differently and deserves to be respected. When people are suffering a loss, let them take the lead and take your cues from them.

Do make sure you’ve got your facts straight.

It seems like a given, but when posting about a death on social media, it’s crucial to ensure that your information is accurate. There have been endless accounts of people posting erroneous details about deaths and serious illnesses, creating unnecessary chaos and damaging cherished relationships.

Do respond to the passing via the same medium with which you were notified.

In the first hours and days after someone dies, their loved ones are left to deal with a storm of emotions and a long list of logistics. If you’re notified on social media rather than receiving a call, the family likely doesn’t have time to talk with everyone or are choosing not to discuss it at the time. Briefly acknowledge the news through the same medium by which you were notified. Give the family space to deal with to deal with the situation and reach out to them later.

Do consider your relationship with the deceased when posting a comment.

If you weren’t close to him or her, it’s best to offer a simple comment of condolences rather than a stand-alone post of your own. If the deceased was a close friend or family member, think about their personality. Were they open or intensely private? How would they feel about your social media post?

Do keep a low profile on the day of the service.

Refrain from posting or tweeting at the funeral or memorial service, as well as making less explicit mentions such as social media check-ins at the funeral home or cemetery. Make sure your phone is turned off throughout the service and don’t take selfies of any kind.

In today’s digital age, social media has become a big component in how we grieve. Death remains a delicate and deeply subjective process for the bereaved, so be thoughtful in your online expressions of sympathy.

If you have questions about how to address a passing on social media or need assistance dealing with the death of a loved one, please reach out to us anytime. Our compassionate funeral directors are always here to help you.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/

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