Good Grief…It’s On Facebook

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I’ll say it. Facebook can be irritating. Invitations to play games we don’t have time for. Fattening recipes we don’t need. False promises of free iPads and gift cards.

Who hasn’t been guilty of a little eye rolling when scanning through their newsfeed? There are the over-sharers. The boastin’ postin’.  Sometimes Facebook seems to be a perpetual version of one of those Christmas card letters.

Even with its annoyances, it has become a Godsend in some ways.

What began as a place for college students to connect, has grown into a place to reconnect and share joyful or funny news. It has now evolved into something even more. In times of trouble, we can let others know we are supporting them in thought and prayer.

Like many Facebook users, I have followed cancer and recovery-to-health journeys of people I don’t even know. This isn’t voyeuristic.  It is an example of our connection as human beings, which compels us to pray for and root for these friends of our friends.

In times of tragedy and loss, Facebook can be a place to share our grief, and ultimately comfort one another.

Nicole, a classmate of mine, lost her daughter Leah in 2012. I never met Leah, but I got to “know” her through several months of Nicole’s posts on Facebook. The posts were sometimes upbeat or sweet and funny, and often raw and heartbreaking. They were always beautiful because of her family’s fierce love. This love was apparent in every post. Nicole’s generosity in sharing Leah’s journey, allowed countless people to “know” Leah and to pray for her.

Several months after Leah died, I asked Nicole if Leah’s Facebook page made her sad and if it would remain intact. She said, “Leah’s Facebook page will remain alive for as long as I live. Dozens of people post public and private messages almost every week.”

How comforting it must be for Nicole to have the warm reminders that Leah is thought of, and missed by, so many people.

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If joy shared is joy multiplied; then is grief shared, while not lessened, perhaps at least made more bearable?  I think so.

Four of my  Facebook friends passed away in the last few years.  After watching what has unfolded on their Facebook pages, I began to think: Will Facebook evolve into a online memorial garden – especially for the generation who never knew a world without Facebook?

Mike passed away in July of 2011 after triumphantly living with ALS for over ten years. I miss his wickedly funny and irreverent wit. Without Facebook, I would have missed seeing this beautiful photo, posted by Mike’s nephew. It captures what is perhaps the most fitting and perfectly placed memorial stone I have ever seen:  stunning in its simplicity, meaning, and setting, for a true outdoorsman.

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Kathey died in August of  2011. She kept much of her 10-year breast cancer fight sort of private. She didn’t want to be sick, act sick or have anyone think of her as sick. I couldn’t bring myself to write “Happy Birthday”on her Facebook wall the last two years. “Birthday” would have looked pitiful. Kathey would hate that. She made a BIG deal of ALL birthdays. She would have celebrated another birthday this weekend.  She wasn’t a very active Facebooker, but it makes me smile to peek at her wall, read a post and see that someone is thinking of her. I miss her terribly, but will once again find some Happy in her Birthday.

Tom, was the king of the perfectly placed one-liner. He was usually the first to alert me to the news of a recently deceased celebrity.  The news flash was in the form of an always funny, and sometimes, heartwarming commentary. Speculation (and yes, sometimes wagering) about which celebrity would be the next to go, soon followed. Naturally, we counted them off in the requisite groups of three. What? Doesn’t everyone do this?

Tom passed away last January. This memory stone, with names of some of  Tom’s nephews and a niece is pure sweetness. It made me smile. Without Facebook, I would never have seen this treasure created in memory of a beloved uncle.

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It occurred to me that cemeteries may become less important for the next generations. Maybe this had already started. I live in an area where choosing cremation and The Neptune Society is common practice. Personally, I’m not a frequent cemetery visitor, and I don’t know too many people who are. I admit, I had never really felt a tremendous connection to the final resting places of my loved ones.

Then my cousin Jennie died.

A 42-year old wife and mother, she fought  breast and brain cancer for 18 months. Learning her final resting place would be next to my Dad, who died nearly 30 years ago, was a moment full of emotion. Suddenly the cold cemetery seemed a little warmer. I know their souls have left their earthly bodies, but somehow, it is comforting to know my Dad finally has “company next door” after all these years, and that Jennie has her Uncle Art to watch over her.

However, I still think a cemetery can be a stark reminder of a death, and a visit to one may mean grieving in solitude. But, a visit to a Facebook page can be a shared celebration of life. It is a community venue for showing support, sharing warm remembrances and ongoing tributes.

Jennie’s wall contains sweet memories, photos of haircuts and donations to “Locks of Love,”and inspirational quotes.

“Leah’s Day Of Love” was organized as a Facebook Event and observed on the 1st Anniversary of her death. Lovely, random acts of kindness were documented in joyful photos. What a beautiful day dreamed up by Leah’s cousin.

Tom’s page has memories of March Madness. All their pages are filled with birthday wishes, photos of happy moments, and sentiments about missed friends.

It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are about eternal life, or how you feel about headstones and scattered ashes. If you’ve lost a friend, visit their Facebook page and see how their spirit lives on in their family and friends.

Join the celebration. Share a story.

Cultivate a memory garden and watch it grow.

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18 responses »

  1. Major goosebumps happening over here! WOW. So beautifully written. I am very sorry for all your losses. You are right about the positives of Facebook and other social media venues. A lot of good has come out of connecting with loved ones and ones we haven’t even met. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  2. This has made me reconsider my instructions to Sarah to take down my Facebook page after I go….might have to keep that option open

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    • Thank you. Before they were losses, they were blessings – that is a major silver lining.
      Blogging really is cheap therapy – and I get to sit on my own couch instead of a Doc’s couch!

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  3. So happy to have my new laptop back & working! And thanks to my sweet Niece, Annie, it is all set up also. Can’t thank you enough for ALL your help Sweetheart! Loved your writing above & it all flowed so nicely, just as my tears when I realized you mentioned my Jennie. You have a real gift Annie, hope you keep sharing! Hugs, A. Carolyn

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