• Mon, Oct 1 2012

‘I Realize We’re At A Funeral, But I Need To Update My Facebook Status So Everyone Knows I’m Grieving.’

I'm sure Dixie was an amazing dog, but is this really appropriate? If something were to happen to my Hubbell, I'd be too devastated to advertise it -- even a year after the loss.

It was about a year ago when someone I went to high school with had a Facebook status that read that her mother had just “died a few minutes ago,” and how she wanted people to pray for her. I couldn’t believe it. Her mother had just died and she was on her phone making sure everyone knew? Was she still sitting next to her mother when she posted the morbid status, or did she at least step outside to do it?

A week can’t go by where someone isn’t posting something about someone dying on my Facebook news feed. Whether it’s a family member, a friend or a beloved pet, there is someone with whom I’m “friends” who’s either posting a very recent loss (as in, it happened only 10 minutes ago) or the anniversary of a loss.

Grieving is not an easy task, and everyone handles it in their own way, but it seems both crass and disrespectful to whip out your phone and immediately let everyone on Facebook know that you’re in mourning or still doing your best to cope with a loss even a decade after the fact.

Are you one of these people who does this? Is it for attention? Sympathy? Of just utter devastation that you just don’t know what else to do in the moment? If you are guilty of this practice, can you tell the rest of us why, please? Because I don’t get it; and between that and photos of “Johnny’s first poop in the toilet” statuses, I feel like the world is spinning out of control.

 

Photo: Facebook Screenshot

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  • Larissa

    my ex did that when his brother passed. and i found it wildly inappropriate, and frankly disrespectful to his brother. it definitely affected my perception of him. 99.9% of the time, it’s for attention. and that’s just terrible.

  • Renee

    Personally, I believe that grief has become even more difficult to process BECAUSE we have decided to sanitize our social interactions, and try to hide death and grieving from our public personas. I know Facebook is being used by businesses and professionals, but it is a social network. What is wrong with reaching out for support when you need it most? Why are we bothered by public displays of emotion? This is absolutely a cultural construct, as it isn’t the same in other cultures.

    For example: you are posting about something that bothers you, and are requesting some kind of a response. But you do it on the Gloss and not Facebook. What is the difference?

    • Larissa

      actually i’m just being a slacker at my office and chiming in on random Gloss/Crushable articles instead of doing yet another Excel sheet, so i’m not here to bare my soul…lol but I get your point. Although yes, i’m putting out my opinion out in the world. but it’s just a little commentary. Not telling 2 million strangers my mother died 2 min ago. That’s a huge difference.
      And I get the need for support, on some level. But I think what the article mentioned, that I was responding to, was the immediate jerk reaction to jump on social media and announce your business to friends… and co-workers, and acquaintances, exes, and old friends, old enemies, and pretty much everyone you’ve ever met. They don’t ALL need to know your business. That’s where the over-sharing comes in. And to make that one of your first priorities instead of, i don’t know, being with family, or contemplating, or making funeral arrangements, or the ten million other things one needs to do in the wake of a tragedy. It’s the immediate jump to “Hey everyone, something terrible happened to me, check it out!” aspect that I found disrespectful. In most cases. I did specify not ALL cases.

    • Amanda Chatel

      I agree. I see your point, Renee.

      But, personally, what I choose to write about for The Gloss or any other site, I do as a way for others to relate if they’ve experienced the same thing. I’m not going to post on Facebook: “Just got back from my abortion, guys!” or “Having major depressive disorder is totally murdering my day, yo.” I guess I just see it in a different context. But then again, it’s easier to put myself out there for strangers than people I’ve actually met…

      Also, Larissa, do you have any Excel spreadsheet tips? I suck at them and need to make a budget now that I’m a “grown-up.”

  • Katrina

    People use Facebook and Twitter as a personal journal because they don’t see the interaction they are having. If you were face to face with a person having a conversation, you would probably be less likely to disclose some of the things that you do on Facebook. It takes away all self monitoring.

  • alma

    I actually found out my grandmother had passed away via one of my cousins facebook updates…
    It was one of the shitty-est things I’ve ever been through. I knew she was on her death bed and it would happen anytime, but I really wished I would have found out via a phone call and not while trolling thorough facebook. People are stupid.

  • Jennalyn Scott

    SERIOUSLY, Amanda? YOU ARE SO F*CKING SELF RIGHTEOUS I CAN’T EVEN STAND IT.

    You bitch about your mom, who is alive, all the time. I’ve never commented on those posts, except I find you incredibly infantile, think your mother is a saint, and don’t know why people put up with you. That said, don’t you even DARE tell people how to cope when their mother passes away. Until you f*cking watch your mother die in a hospital room, you have no idea how you’ll react. This post makes me sick. Seriously.

    Guess what? When my mom died, I FUCKING TEXTED MY BOYFRIEND. I put it on Facebook. It was better than the “how’s it going” texts that rolled in every two minutes. It was better than calling and telling everyone. It was a lifeline when I was all alone. EVERYONE PROCESSES GRIEF DIFFERENTLY. Until you’ve been there, don’t judge.

    You make me sick.

    • Jai

      THIS. Considering the way you just freaked out on one person’s opinion you definitely are the type of person who would post the death of their mother on Facebook.

      Maybe it’s your lack of anti-psychotic drugs that are making you sick. Check yourself.

    • thaumata

      Word. I always find myself rolling my eyes when another self-absorbed Amanda post comes rolling through. It’s always when I find myself rethinking my subscription to the feed here. Always.

    • Jenna

      And considering your lack of compassion and abundance of self-righteous indignation, that is why we are not Facebook friends, so it all works out, doesn’t it?

      Fact: You can’t control other people’s grief processes, nor can you control other people’s reactions to insensitive posts. I’ve long felt Amanda Chatel is brayingly insensitive, and while I could have said fewer f*cks, the sentiment remains the same.

      Fact: I am jealous that Amanda has a mother and I don’t.

      Fact: I hate when people tell me how I “should” process my grief.

      Fact: Telling people to take their “anti-psychotic drugs” is pretty much the most unimaginative thing you can say on the Internet.

      What I would like people to understand, in reading my comment, is that you cannot imagine how one feels when a loved one passes away. Instead of judging, it is far more valuable and humane to offer support, understanding, and sympathy. If you can’t do that—or if you’d prefer to bray about how insensitive these people are when they are dealing with an experience you’ve never had—then at least leave it off the Internet. Or just unfriend them and do both of you a favor.

      Love and light—and call your moms.

    • Amanda Chatel

      @Jenna

      I am truly, without snide intentions or sarcasm, sorry that you lost your mother. In fact, although you find me quite insensitive (although I mean to be more of a devil’s advocate and to fuel fire at times), I actually sit here crying for your loss.

      I can’t even imagine the devastation that comes with something like that, and I am without words as to how I can appropriately convey the regret I feel in upsetting you so much that you responded how you did — honestly, you had every right, because I don’t know what it’s like to lose my mother.

      I’m not sure how I would react when that day comes, so let’s just chalk it up to an ignorant twit just throwing that discussion out there.

      Again, I’m deeply, deeply sorry for your loss.

    • Sam

      1) So if a person’s parent is alive, they are not allowed to discuss them in any way besides positively to avoid offending those whose parents are not alive? A dear relative to me died last year but if somebody mentioned their family member, I doubt I’d get upset.

      2) In every post I’ve ever seen with her mother mentioned, she’s just discussing a conversation or something. It’s not like she’s running around screaming, “MY MOM’S AN ASSHOLE.”

      3) I am sorry for your loss, definitely, because I think it’s extremely saddening whenever a person loses anybody they love. I won’t tell you how to grieve, but I do think swearing profusely at somebody’s article over the Internet is probably not going to make you feel any better.

    • gab

      Wow Jenna! I’m sorry for your loss. That is some post.

      Do you think that every article on the internet is directed at you personally? Guess what, it is tasteless to post about your mom’s immediate death on facebook. How do you think people who were close to her felt when instead of receiving a phone call they got a post like that. Oh that’s right only your feelings count, sorry my bad.

  • Elizer

    How fair is it to judge how others process grief?

  • thaumata

    I don’t know.. it seems weird to me that you’d friend people in places like that that you COULDN’T talk to about your personal life, particularly when a major event like a birth or a death has just happened to you and you’re feeling very vulnerable and reaching out for support. If you can’t handle my life’s events, you can fuck right off of my Facebook page, honestly. I’m there to socialize, not to network.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m with you on this one, actually. I think it’s morbid how much people are willing to share about their personal life on social networking sites. To me, grieving a loved one’s death is a personal affair. Reaching out to close friends and family is completely understandable but airing your grief on Facebook? It just seems a bit showy, I guess.

  • Sam

    When my grandfather died a couple years ago, I was in California and I got a phone call about it, but nobody else in my family talked to me about it even though I couldn’t go to the funeral because it was in NJ. Everything I heard, I read through Facebook and it actually made me feel a lot worse. I just felt like I wasn’t even part of the family; I was just some bystander, the same as anybody else reading the newsfeed. Everybody was too busy with one another to talk, which was understandable, but I felt so lonely and disconnected and upset that Facebook had become this bulletin board of extremely personal news.

  • Jenna

    @amanda (and @sam)

    A of all, in response to @Sam’s comment: No, swearing over the internet doesn’t make me feel better, but it does get the point across. Amanda’s post cut to the bone—because how dare she, who writes posts that show she has a mother who is alive, active, and involved in her life, tell others how to grieve?

    B of all, in response to @Amanda, I sincerely appreciate your apology. Listen, I get it: People overshare. But I feel grief is so personal, so raw, that seeing you casually sling your high school friend’s personal business cut me to the core—I think because I felt horror imagining that my own FB “friends” would do that to me. I am sorry I swore. That was raw, angry energy and you did not deserve that.

    Facebook means a lot of things to different people, and while I can’t comment on Amanda’s friend—she might have been those compulsive oversharers, she may have been obnoxious, I can, as per Amanda’s request, tell you why I was “one of those people that did this.”

    My mom was dying of cancer. I had arrived at the hospital to immediately learn that she was being put on morphine. That there wasn’t any hope. It was me and my two brothers. My father isn’t in the picture. My boyfriend, at the time, was in a hospital in India with a then-unknown parasitic illness from a hiking trip gone awry.

    We were at my mother’s bedside for hours. All of us got phone calls, texts, Facebook messages. We were exhausted. We wanted to be with her. When she finally stopped breathing, it almost felt like a victory. She wasn’t suffering. It was almost like a marathon—we had all crossed over the finish line, together. I need to make it clear: THERE WAS NO HOPE. Still, the texts and calls poured in. “We’re praying.” “We love her.” “She’ll make it home.”

    She wouldn’t. For me, the Facebook message was a quick way of passing along information. She is done suffering. We love her. Thank you for your prayers. And I guess that’s why I swore—to feel like anyone of my friends would have read that and snarked at it. I was exhausted. I was done. But there wasn’t ANYTHING else I could have done.

    The second thing I did? I asked the nurse for a Diet Coke. I know, it sounds ludicrous, cold-hearted, bitchy. But what I mean: I was clinging to some—any—semblance of normalcy. When you’re living in the real world, the idea of Facebooking after someone’s death or asking for a soda after your MOTHER died sounds ridiculous. But cancer world/hospital world/dying world is different. Anything you feel goes. For me, Facebook was normalcy. Facebook meant an end to the prayers that weren’t working. It meant an end to checking in phone calls. And it meant an outpouring of cards and e-mails I still read. And the soda? I don’t know.

    It will NEVER be okay that my mother died. I miss her every single day. But I hate the idea that certain people would diminish my sense of loss and despair because of one in-the-moment message when I did not know what the eff else to do, when FB was the one line I had to the outside world beyond the ventilator and the heart monitor and all the other stuff that were rendered useless.

    Death—even watching it—brings you to a place you’ve never been before or since. Above all, FB is a personal platform. And I hope if any of you have a friend or a “friend” who posts an update like this, you withold your judgment (or keep the snark off the internet), aspire to your best self, and send a card or message telling them how sorry you are to hear it. It doesn’t matter about the words—just be there. Even if it’s your hallmate from freshman year, I promise you, that person, who may have just lost the person most important in their world, will feel a teeny bit less alone.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Jenna, you don’t owe me a single apology — especially for swearing!

      I think your honesty and your response to this post is, and was human, so go with it. You read something that cut you to the bone, as you said, and you were fucking pissed off… unleash it.

      I’m not going to make this about me because it’s not, it’s about you and everyone else in your shoes. We all view social media in a different light. For you, as you so eloquently put it, it was the normalcy you needed in that moment. I respect that and I didn’t mean to belittle your loss (or anyone’s) in any way.

      So the next time I write something that pisses you off, go with it. Swear if you need to and tell me to go fuck myself. Yeah, it’s going to sting me, but you can’t fault a human response to something about which you feel so strongly.

      On a side note, you’re a very a beautiful and passionate writer. I just had to add that part because it’s true.

    • Amy

      Thank you for sharing your story Jenna. I read every word of it and I am beyond sorry for your family’s devastating loss. I don’t know what else to say, I feel like I have learned something today and I appreciate your candor.

  • Jenna

    One final thing:

    I know I sound like a psycho. But it’s the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death, I’m extra-sensitive, and if I can make something a teaching moment, well …

    Grief is so incredibly weird. It doesn’t change you as much as you think it would. You’ll still try to crack jokes, if you’re sarcastic. You’ll still ask mourners how THEY are, if you’re sensitive. You’re still hungry, all the time, even though you wish you could effortlesly drop ten pounds like people in books do. You know it sounds selfish to even think that. You will still go to $10-for-a-wristband-and-unlimited-drinks happy hour, even if it is three days after your mom died, and you will talk about bad dates and laugh loudly about roommate exploits. You will do this because you are numb inside, and you want to prove so desperately that you are still okay, you can still navigate the world. You will probably also, later that night, end up too drunk and end up falling on the sidewalk, skinning your knees and breaking your iPhone, and find yourself in your boyfriend’s bed, inconsolable about your cracked screen.

    “I think you’re really sad about your mom,” your boyfriend will say tentatively. You will disagree.

    You will also update your Facebook, make sure to Tweet, and buy cookies instead of lunch when you come back to work because you deserve it. You will hope your friends understand.

    And then, you realize they don’t. That they’re whispering behind your back, making fun of your maudlin facebook updates, wondering how you can dare joke or drink or Tweet when your mom is dead. As if you didn’t know.

    Again, I know it’s overkill. But I just want to say: Please don’t judge someone’s grief response. They already have a shitload of stuff to deal with.

    • Josephine

      Mad <3 and four "sing it sisters"! My mother's death destroyed me. No One. NO ONE gets to tell me how to grieve. PS the responses from faraway friends on Facebook kept me going through the pain.

  • Nancy

    What I do hate, and do judge, is when someone posts someone elses death on Facebook when there are still people who are really close to that person who most likely don’t know yet.
    A few years ago a friend of mine died. My other friend was his girlfriend for 4 years and they had been broken up for about a year when he died. She found out from some girl’s facebook, and that girl wasn’t super good friends with him or anything she just got all the ‘gossip’ on him from her mom. THAT I do judge; I think if you’re not one of the closest people in that person’s life then it’s distasteful to basically notify the public. That girl was responsible for everyone I knew finding out, actually.
    I don’t understand people’s need to post about these things on Facebook at all, I definitely wouldn’t because it feels pointless and inappropriate TO ME, but I don’t think everybody just does it for attention, though some people like the girl in my story most likely do. When my grandmother died, my brother was all over it on Facebook. He even started a ‘remember her’ group, and my brother could not give less of a shit about what people think of him, he doesn’t do anything for attention, ever. Our grandmother was seriously one of his best friends, so yeah, I think it must truly be good for some people to do.

  • Madeira

    I just lost a beloved pet, am hurting like all hell, and posted about it on Facebook.

    • Madeira

      And I did so because it’s true; it’s what’s actually going on with me right now and I could use some kindness about it. People I have friended who find this boring/ tacky/ attention-whoring/ insincere/ sappy/ not-what-they-deem-the-”right”-way-to-use-Facebook can fucking feel free to de-friend me; I’d certainly de-friend them in a heartbeat if I knew they were looking down their nose at me about it and encouraging others to express the same.

  • Melissa

    My boyfriend committed suicide in almost a year ago. On his birthday I posted a picture of him and wrote a short memorial paragraph, including all the wonderful things about him. I did it because I wished the world could have known what a great person he was, and of course, they never would. I wanted everyone to know how much he meant to me and how lucky I was to have known him. It was out of respect – it had nothing to do with seeking attention. In fact, I never talk about it. It is too difficult. I, and many other people he was close to, frequently post on his Facebook wall. How is this seeking attention? We miss him, and we want to be able to feel connected to him through each other.