As more and more folks become active on social media, I thought it might be a good time to broach a delicate subject: death. I don’t know about you, but there have been a few times that I’ve learned about the death of a loved one through a pretty brief Facebook post… you know… something like: “I can’t believe it! RIP Freddie Jones!” No details, no information about the death. People might start commenting things like “What happened?” on the post. Perhaps then dribs and drabs of information will start to come out.
But what happens more often is that other folks will start sharing the sentiment, perhaps even tagging the deceased. Then a string or “RIP Freddie” posts will become visible to all of Freddie’s Facebook friends. Perhaps many of them close friends or relatives who haven’t been notified of his passing. I understand that people are upset and sometimes in shock. It’s a normal human reaction to share our grief. But you also have to think about those closest to the deceased.
If you weren’t online, whose job is it to announce someone has passed away and make the arrangements for services? Think in those terms. If you discover someone has passed, hold off making any kind of public announcement for a bit. (message close friends privately if you feel the need.) Allow either the spouse or children of the deceased to be the one to tell everyone what happened. Or for a single adult or child, allow the parents to share the information. If you’re close enough to the family to ask, you can inquire if it’s all right with them if you share the information publicly. They might appreciate you taking care of that for them. At least that way, they’ll be expecting the flood of questions, texts, emails, phone calls, and posts that are sure to come after someone passes away.
If you are the person to make that post, think about what you’re going to write. You’ll want to let people know that someone has passed and offer a few details. If you have information about services, add it and include a link to a funeral home or obituary if you have it. Or make sure to tell people arrangements haven’t been made yet and you’ll let them know.
Also, be cautious of taking up fundraising without family permission. I’ve seen a few cases where well-intentioned folks have set up GoFundMe campaigns for funeral expenses that ended up clashing with the wishes of the family. It’s always a good idea to get permission from the family before doing any type of fundraising.
It’s not a bad idea in times of loss for family members to pick a person with some social media savvy to be the point person for posting information and fielding questions.
I’ve got more on FB during times of loss in these two articles: