Some bring flowers. Some write in a journal. Some retreat to solitude. Some look at old pictures and some simply write on the wall…the Facebook wall, that is. Whatever the method, everyone deals with loss differently. Increasingly, Facebook serves as a source of comfort for many students dealing with the passing of a loved one.
Following a person’s death, many may be surprised as the Facebook page quickly takes a life of its own. Memorialized messages to the deceased appear almost instantly in the form of text, photos and even video. Some choose to change their default pictures to one of or with the deceased. Especially for college students, this online activity seems to serve as a major source of comfort when dealing with grief and bereavement.
Facebook has also allowed people to come together to mourn the lives of those passed away. Tyler Clementi (the bullied student from Rutgers University) and others gone too soon have been memorialized by hundreds of Facebook groups solely dedicated to their memory. Through Facebook, these students live on in real-time.
Have you been a witness to this phenomenon? Personally, I can testify to being both a witness and participant. Following the shock and sadness of learning of a childhood friend’s death, one of my first actions was to check their last Facebook and Twitter update. I looked for videos of them and even searched for my friend’s last blog post – anything to bring me closer to them.
Three months later, I am amazed at the amount activity my friend’s page still has. The page is filled with recent messages such as: “I can’t believe you’re gone. Missing you more than you can imagine,” ““The campus just isn’t the same without you,” and even the simple “Rest in Peace.”
I left a message, as well. While it was just a simple: “Thought of you today. Praying for your family,” it was amazing how much better I felt after pushing “Share.” I’m not sure who exactly I shared my personal message with – whether it was other grieving friends or his family…but I’ll honestly admit that I secretly imagined my old friend somewhere “on the other side,” smiling as he received the notification instantly.
Facebook has allowed us our loved ones to leave a tangible memory that we can privately view, revisit and even interact with. While they may be gone, it’s clear that through the walls of Facebook, they will not easily be forgotten.
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