Social Media and Grief

social mediaWhen we suffer from the loss of a loved one, it is almost instinctual to post about our loss on social media. It allows us to share our grief with the world and to receive support from loved ones as well as strangers. However, is social media a tool that can assist us in the grieving process or is it something that will end up being more harmful down the road?

Communication or Lack Thereof

Social media allows those going through the grieving process to communicate with loved ones and friends from behind the computer rather than face to face or over the phone. While this may be beneficial for those who are having difficulty interacting at a certain stage of the grieving process, it can create several problems for both the bereaved and for those around them.

1. It Can Surprise and Upset Others

Those who hear about the death of a person over social media rather than directly from the immediate family of the deceased may end up having a more negative experience. If you are the one who plans on posting the death of a relative or friend on social media, consider the feelings and reactions of those around you and contact those who may not want to hear about the loss through the internet.

2. It Can Open the Door to Unwanted Communication

While posting online may make your loved ones the ability to memorialize and recognize the passing of someone, it also gives strangers the ability to make comments about the deceased. This could be potentially harmful should a passing stranger choose to make a comment about the deceased that isn’t true or to memorialize them when they have had no relevance in the deceased’s life. There may also be people who will try to make harmful jokes or random statements on the memorial page simply because they can.

3. Mourning Online Eliminates Physical Contact

Mourning online eliminates the possibility of physical contact with friends and family. Although kind words from people on memorial pages can give us the feeling that we are supported and not alone, it lacks the type of contact that we need when we are going through this difficult time. A simple hug or a conversation with a friend is extremely beneficial to those going through the grieving process and is something to consider pursuing even if you only feel like communicating your loss online.

4. You May Not Receive the Communication You Were Hoping For

It may be expected that some of your closest friends will leave long posts offering condolences and sharing memories of your loved ones, but it is not guaranteed. You may find that the people you expected to mourn your loss will remain silent online and the people you least expected to grieve will offer the most support. You may also discover that condolences and memories will be replaced by likes and emojis, which can be devastating.

So, is social media helpful or harmful? While social media can be a beneficial tool in spreading news and receiving support, it is not always used by others in the way that it is intended. Miscommunication and abuse are always a possibility when it comes to sharing the death of a loved one online. The best thing to do if you are considering using social media to grieve is to weigh the pros and the cons before posting anything about a loss online.