Mourning online can be a difficult line to walk; between the giving and receiving of condolences, there is no universally acceptable or unacceptable way to pay your respects. There are many unspoken rules of social media etiquette and when combined with a topic like death, it becomes nearly impossible to know what lines you shouldn't cross and why. Here is set of guidelines for the most common "do's and don'ts" of condolence etiquette and navigating loss online:
1: DO Send A Message
Sending a message is the most private and personal way you can reach out to someone when communicating on social media. Out of all the methods of condolence-giving out there, sending a message is the most acceptable and supportive method. Don't hesitate to reach out and send a message to those affected by the loss of a loved one.
2: DON'T Rush
As a mourner, you are not required to respond to every message or comment that comes your way. We understand that you are still healing and it will take some time. Our second rule is to take your time, don't rush. Everyone grieves on their own time and those who reach out to you already understand. The marvelous thing about social media is you don't have to fret over an appropriate response time like you would in real life.
3: DO Show Solidarity
With the abundance of recent tragedies occurring around the world, showing solidarity has become a common means of support. As a friend or member of a family currently undergoing some sort of loss, you don't need a hashtag or photo-filter to show solidarity; simply changing your profile picture to an image of you and the deceased can help memorialize and pay tribute to the good memories you may have shared. It can symbolize the life the deceased lived and immortalize your relationship online so others impacted by loss can feel how much you care.
4: DON'T Apologize for Sharing
So your baby didn't make it full-term, or maybe your crazy-cool aunt lost her battle with cancer, and every day you are overwhelmed by your thoughts of them. It is normal to want to share even the smallest of memories to anyone who will listen. Posting your memories and thoughts online are good ways to cope and release bottled feeling. If your entire feed and profile is filled with mention of your loved one, don't ever apologize for it. Sharing may even assist others who are grieving open up as well.
5: DO Share Memories
If you were impacted by the news of someone's passing and have a lot of photos or memories of the deceased, you too can share your memories. As long as it is relevant to loss, it is acceptable. Social media has taken great strides in creating a more global grief forum, in which potentially taboo topics like death can be discussed and explored. Share your memories, share your loss, share your photos; it's what social media was created for after all; connecting and sharing.
6: DON'T Serial Post
As a friend, or acquaintance, the worst thing you could do is take away from the family's loss by serial posting. Rule six of condolence-giving is to avoid posting comments on each post or swamping a memorial page with daily wishes. While you may feel you are being supportive, in hindsight, it can burden those closely related to the deceased and you may risk coming off as fake or over-enthusiastic.
7: DO Create A Memorial Page
If inspired to create a memorial page to commemorate the life of a loved one and aggregate the influx of well-wishes and memories, take a minute to do so. With sites like Facebook, it can take less than five minutes to get one up and running. Memorial pages can help separate your loved one's death from the life they lived, as opposed to comments on an inactive profile page. In the context of community, memorial pages are the online equivalent; instead of neighbors bringing you a pie as an excuse to check up on you, users can now leave comments and messages on a memorial page. By having a space purely for remembrance, you can begin to move on with your life and whenever you are struck with longing or sadness, you have a designated space you can go, to remember and share in your loved one's memories.
8: DO ♡, DON'T 'Like'
Before the most recent Facebook update, users had only one option; to 'like' or not to 'like.' When dealing with touchy subjects like the death of a friend or family member, heaven forbid you press 'like' by accident. But today, Facebook users have the choice between 'like,' 'love,' 'wow,' 'sad,' and 'angry' emoticons. The most acceptable choices for an "R.I.P." post would be to click 'love' or 'sad' followed by a warmhearted comment or private message.
9: Don't Be First
Although ranked low on this list, guideline number nine is one of the most important. If someone in your family or a close friend passed away, it is recommended you give the immediate family overseeing death-care details several days, or even a week, to notify all next of kin before posting about it on social media. One of the most painful things when finding out a relative died is to read about it on social media. While paying condolences online is increasingly common, the best way is still the old fashioned way: a telephone call.
10: DON'T Get Too Overwhelmed
Last but not least, be sure to do what is best for you in your time of need. Following the loss of a loved one, the outpouring of texts, emails, calls and social media notifications can be overwhelming. You may feel pressured; maybe you're too involved or not involved enough. Do not let it go to heart. You will have time for all of that. The messages can wait, no one is expecting you to respond immediately. This is the luxury of social media. You have the ability to focus on healing, with no obligation except to only take on as much as you can handle. The messages and comments will not disappear and neither will those who care.
This list stands to provide you with a guideline when maneuvering death and loss in an increasingly digital world. In the case you recently lost a loved one and you don't know where to start when planning a funeral, Funerals360 can help.