Although we are still very much a death denial society its interesting to consider how the Internet and social media has changed the way we grieve today. You could wrongly assume that as a result of having social media those that are grieving for someone now compared to someone who grieved the death of someone twenty or more years ago would be able to do a better job of it? But maybe the reality is that it can have as many disadvantages as advantages as people adapt to finding new ways to express and echo their heartbreak before, during and long after the event.
Social media allows people to support those grieving by offering them the words people so often fail to find when meeting a grieving person face to face. In essence, social media can absolutely remove the barrier that grief often creates between those who grieve and those who want to support them. Here’s some more of the positive’s;
1 Social Media and its many shortcuts.
One post often replaces 50 or more conversations. Social media can give you the opportunity to tell people all at once; you may have dreaded the thought of having to tell the story many times over and over. Thing is, maybe those 50 or so phone calls would of helped the grieving parties express some of their emotions and talk about memories so maybe this is a little bit of both!
Social media also gives a person grieving the opportunity to express their feelings once to their social network, avoiding the necessity to revisit this each time they see a friend or family member although as already stated, this might not be such a bad thing after all! We shouldn’t let social media deny us of opportunities to grieve openly.
It does however certainly allow people the opportunity to post their loving tributes, some of which can be used in the eulogy given at your loved one’s funeral.
2 The uses of groups and forums
The best part for those that really use social media for all it has to offer is that it can put you in touch with hundreds of like minded or similarly bereaved people in the same situation as you, which can become your support and advice group. Nobody quite understands the complications of your specific type of loss better than those that have walked a mile in your shoes.
If its specific support and advice that you want instead of any old words spoken by people that are hopeful of getting it right, specific groups is where it is at. Dare i say it, people actually make lasting friendships on these groups because they have supported each other through a journey that encountered incredibly tough times forging bonds that surpass many friendships you’ve had in the past.
3 Its easier to press return than it is to knock on a door.
it doesn’t take quite as much to share something sat behind a computer. Most would find it hard to actually say in person some of the things that they post. It can be cathartic to write about how you miss your loved one and wouldn’t feel as foolish as you may in actually saying it out loud.
Why say it yourself when you can tweet a beautiful quote that says it for you? I see benefit here but we should think about having a balance between the amount we share publicly and the amount of feeling that we share with actual peoples faces or we could slip into a state of #CyberGrief for which the lasting effects are yet to be measured as we’re the first generations of griever’s to have such a multi layered public outlet.
4 The meaning of the communication is how it is received not how it is spoken.
Sometimes posting something about grief is a very definite cry for help, putting it out there that you’re feeling down and need a some support can unfortunately upset others who are grieving for the same person. Whats more important though? How its received? Or not even how its spoken? Or the fact that something is shared in the first place?
I would argue that sharing something is a really positive step. Once you’re brave enough to do this your next focus is to ask yourself ‘why am i sharing this?’ Whats the desired outcome? You could be just letting everyone know where you’re at which is great. You can be crying for help in which case does the wording of your statement specifically ask as much or are you dropping hints that create some kind of challenge for people to prove their friendship?
If that is the case, this is no time for games. Say it like it is and state clearly what you need. There are lots of people that are willing to help you, you just need to say clearly what it is that you actually require them to do.
The less specific you are in what you post the more open to interpretation and judgement your words will be. If you are vague you leave yourself open to misconception, and that misunderstanding may cause you offence when people assume you’re coping badly, or also, that you’re being in some way disrespectful to someone that died that you share in common.
You cant please everyone. So don’t try.
5 More Anchor’s
Social media now delivers pictures or posts from the past. Precious memories in the form of anchors that can cheer you up on a bad day. Some might begrudge the reminders but this will be a yardstick for where you’re at with your grief. If you see it as a negative then maybe you need to think about why being reminded of the love you had for that person is a bad thing? Would you rather forget them? If not, is it because you don’t control the timing of these things?
6 Instant reaction’s
Your friends obviously aren’t psychic. They cant help you unless they know you’re having a bad day so you can instantly tell a group of people how you feel and hope for an immediate reaction. The hope is that someone will always be around to convert that message into a real life conversation on the phone or in person. Theres nothing more comforting than to know you have an outlet available to you at all times. What if nobody responds though? Maybe thats when we revert back to the old fashioned ways and seek someones support in person.
7 Comforting Stories.
It brings great comfort when people from far and wide are able to share stories of memories of their loved one’s. It really makes them realise how many people loved and cared for them. This especially the case with children. Having received this idea on one of my many social media research spree’s i have set one up for my boys so that people can post memories of their Mum for them to read now and for the rest of their lives. Would you do this too?
8 Special Occasions
Mothers Day & Fathers Day and any special occasion can hurt like hell, even after many years. The good side is that on special days – anniversary’s, birthdays or maybe just because you’re am missing them, you can put a little post on social media and there is something comforting in physically typing a message just for them and sending it out into the great wide world.
It can really bother some though. Every ‘anniversary’ they see so many posts & picture from other relatives and It can be really frustrating because again it gives those with denial tendencies to be forced to acknowledge their loss. It can also be upsetting because you feel those relatives don’t have the right to own their grief given that hey may not have don’t enough in your eyes in the lead up to that persons death?
Lets look at the potential not so positive’s.
1 Beneath the facade?
We often look to social media to air our issues not realising that it can actually mean we don’t always get quite the support we need. Yes, ‘support’ could be achieved when you get those 142 crying face emojis and lots of comments to say ‘if you need anything shout’ but how many of those comments actually amount to something real when you try to take it further?
A cup of tea and a face to face chat is the best form of therapy and due to social media this could be a dying form. But then before we romanticise about the good old days when ‘grief used to be real grief’ which I’m pretty sure didn’t exist, thats to suggest that people actually engaged in that chat over a cuppa in the first place. Not all would of done. It wasn’t always the done thing!
Another problem with social media is that you can very easy go 6 months to a year without seeing someone because you get too used to ‘seeing’ them everyday on their feeds. Its observing a life instead of interacting with it on any particular level. It can be a lonely world and it paints a picture that’s often far from the truth.
2 Fuelling gossip?
Sometimes you’d say that sharing your grief on social media platforms creates content for the inevitable ‘acquaintances’ on your friends list who will use it to simply gossip. I guess you take that chance when you put something out. I liken it to fishing. You cast a very big net with social media. You know you wont catch every fish in the lake but you don’t really need all of them, you just need the one to feel like you got a reaction or that you ‘caught something’
Also continuing the metaphor, the fish get wise to your strategy and potentially start to Ignore the bait or inhabit the shaded areas of the lake when you’re around. Id suggest that whilst the reason you’re fishing is clear, you should evaluate wether the big net is necessary or wether there is a particular person or group that will respond when you aim your landing net in their specific direction.
3 Analysing our intention and the motives behind them.
I think people on your feed understand why you would be sharing those comments but i also think they might begin to feel at a point that those comments could be best shared with those that are really in a position to help. We can alienate people when the strategy is too often to be seen to be grieving, you don’t need to prove to people that you’re feeling the way you do.
People want to know you’re ok, or at lest they should, but people have a tendency to care about their own state of mind too and if they feel like your posts are having a negative effect on their wellbeing then that might account for why they unfollow or go missing.
You have to take into account that people you don’t hear from are not always just uninterested or offended by the nature of your outpours, sometimes your posts bring up painful or difficult memories and reactions for them, forcing them to feel or acknowledge something they felt they had done a good job of suppressing until you and your grief came along.
4 Why People get upset
Usually the people that complain to others about you sharing your grief again are the ones that actually have a reason for not wanting you to do so. If they’re trying their hardest to deny the existence of their grief the last thing they need is for you to talk about yours because it threatens their false sense of security they’ve been working on for some time.
5 The difference in the platforms you could use
Ive heard it described that social media is like screaming to an empty room? It’s a way to express what’s on your mind and how much it hurts without actually saying it in person? Is it empty? Maybe this depends on the platform you share it on? Facebook is full of your friends and relatives but twitter is maybe more the place where you can say what you like without feeling like you’re going to be judged.
6 Creating jealousy
Social Media can really rub salt in the wounds for some. When they see pictures on their feed of friends with their parents for example it can feel like awful as the envy rises, painfully questioning why they have their parents still but they’ve lost both of theirs?
Another unintentionally cruel example is when people post their baby scan pictures which sends the bereaved mother into potentially feeling like they have to hide the posts on account of the pain it causes.
7 Is it part of you or are you defined by it?
Ive experienced people that seem to wear their grief like a badge. Its at the top of their profile and it gives the impression to all that this is what you live for, this is all you have become. When i ask are you defined by it. Is your life purpose to now eat, sleep and drink that loss? Or is it that you are you, you’re still that person from before but you also have some pain that you’re dealing with?
Posting something and actually having your grief on the profile are two very different levels of how consumed you may feel but one says to me this is who i am but this is how i feel and the other says to me that this is who i have become.
You can imagine the reactions of others and the engagement you’ll relieve on these platforms will vary depending on your answer to the question, are you grief? Or are you experiencing grief?