A girl I grew up with died last weekend. I haven’t seen her in years, but we played on the same soccer team and I used to go to her house for sleepovers. I remember laying on her bed, watching Richie Rich on the TV in her room (being amazed her parents let her have her own TV), talking.
Our paths didn’t really cross too much after that point–I moved on to a new school and she kept through the public school system. I heard through some mutual friends that she had hit upon a rough patch and had gotten into a bad scene, but thought that she had worked through it. And then I received a phone call last week about her death.
But before I could even check my messages or talk to my friend, I learned the news first from the numerous wall postings to this girl on Facebook. Countless people logged on to wish her restful peace and let her know they were sorry.
I don’t want knock anyone’s way of grieving, because I do believe we all handle situations differently, and I know that life/how we handle information is rapidly changing due to the Internet; however, to me, writing messages on the public social networking page of someone who has died is odd.
Maybe, as my friend Chris recently wrote about in his blog, it’s just one of those things that embarrass me (I too don’t like to express overly patriotic/religious/sentimental opinions with people most of the time), but I just feel like it’s such a strange way to acknowledge someone’s passing. I get that maybe it’s a way to feel like you actually can “talk” to the person, but some of the comments I’ve seen (not just in this instance… sadly a few people I’m friends with on facebook have died) just seem a little inappropriate to post in a public forum. Beyond that, I think that if people aren’t careful, it can create a pretty horrible way for someone to find out potentially devastating news.
This phenomenon of intense FB sharing/memorializing is something that has become more and more common in the past 5 years and it’s something I’m not really sure I’m able to fully comprehend/support. I do see the benefits to this way of mourning–it allows people to have a voice and an audience for their grief; it lets people know they are not alone in their feelings, and it can provide some wonderful comfort to families to see how much their loved one meant to others. However, it also seems that many people do not adhere to proper social protocols (for on- or offline living) and post some things that are better left unsaid/unwritten.
Also, I can’t help but feel so many people go out of their way to qualify their friendship/kinship with the deceased and prove why they are truly mourning this terrible loss. I’ve seen, and experienced this phenomenon firsthand. I once had someone try to “one up” my grief by arguing that the death we were both grieving affected that person more than me (yeah, someone actually said, “yeah, but you were just his X, I was his X. Imagine how this makes me feel”). I don’t argue that we all have people in our lives who play more significant roles in our existence than others, but I don’t get the one-upmanship that seems to accompany the grief process for so many people.
This “more worthy of grieving” attitude has created a strange guilt within me about mourning the loss of someone “more than you should.” There have been several people who have died who I was not particularly close with but whose death had a significant effect on me for one reason or another. And I have actually felt guilt about this–as though I have no place to mourn so much for someone unless I can back up my reason for feeling so connected.
And based on the different experiences I’ve had when death, it seems like others, consciously or not, feel the need to justify how they react based on their relationship with the person: “But she was my neighbor.” “She was my friend for 14 years.” “We talked on the phone last night.” I don’t know if this is a direct product from the experiences others have had with”grief one-upmanship,” or if that phenomenon is a direct result from the insecurities we feel about our mourning.
I’m curious to know others opinions on online memorializing and guilty grieving. Have you experienced either of these before? What’s been your take?