My grandfather recently passed away, and while he wasn't participating on social networks, he was a popular topic on my Facebook feed these last few days. People used to find out about a family or friend passing in the newspaper or through a phone call, but today Facebook or Twitter are regularly used to spread news. My grandfather's passing raised an important question for me: how do we deal with the tough stuff online so we don't break hearts offline?
Here's a five things to keep in mind when announcing a family member or friend's death online:
1. Make sure the immediate family knows first. Everyone. Even if it takes a while to get in touch with people who are out of town or traveling, just hold on so everyone has the chance to talk. I have heard many a horror story about people learning their sibling or friend died on Facebook. Trust me, it's a traumatizing experience for those people and causes a lot of resentment and anger.
2. Ask if anyone has a problem with an online announcement. It doesn't hurt to have a conversation as a family about "who" and "when" an announcement should be made online. It's not uncommon for a family to work on an obituary together, and the same rules should apply here.
3. If the person has a Facebook account, decide who will submit the memorial request. This is a nice way to ensure the person's account can be used by others to share their stories and memories when everyone is ready to announce it.
4. Be consistent. Decide as a family what you will say and how much you will say. In especially difficult situations, it's important misinformation doesn't spread. It's also easy for feelings to get hurt if one person is disclosing any family drama in the process.
5. Be forgiving. Grieving is hard. For some, it's a highly private matter. For others, they need lots of support from family and friends. Remember that not everyone grieves the same way and don't be alarmed if one family member is posting for days and days with new photos, memories and information.
(Photo Credit: Sean Rioux and Facebook)