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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

100

You Have One New Death

Now we find out when a friend dies because another friend joins a Facebook group called “Remembering R.A.”

As far as we know, R. A. is alive and well in South America, getting hammered every night at hostels and making friends, so we click on a link and see that somebody made a group for people to reminisce and post pictures about R.A.

This group now serves as a notification that a 25-year-old has died.

Now we frantically scan his Facebook page to see what his last post was, but he wasn’t a big Facebook user and the last thing he posted was an August 13 album called "Nueva Camera," and a status update joking about how Lima was the foggiest place he’d ever seen. It is now August 20. He has been dead for one day.

Now we send a message of condolence to his girlfriend in Budapest offering the kind of well-meaning and empty support we can offer when we’re in Canada and she’s in Hungary.

She replies that although the separation has been hard that they’ll see each other in Melbourne in three months and asks how life is in Canada after being in Central America for six months, and do we miss the hotel we were managing down there.

Now we realize that she doesn’t know.

Now we dance nervously around our apartment in Canada covering our face with our hands, not wanting to be the one to tell her, not wanting to be that person again.

Now it’s three o’clock in the morning and we’re just home from work, with tears and snot running down our face while we cry quietly so the neighbors don’t wake up, but wanting the neighbours to hear and know that we're in pain. And it’s not even our own pain. It’s hers and she’s in Budapest.

It’s ours because when we were 19 someone called us in a resort town while we were working at a deli to tell us that the boy we were in love with three months ago had died in a car wreck and drugs had been involved.

It’s ours because when we were 16 our casual friend in English class died of liver cancer and they announced it on the PA but our best friend missed the announcement and we had to tell her, and it was the worst feeling we’d ever had.

It’s ours because in 2004 our uncle called our mother at midnight to tell us that our dad had killed himself and there was no booze in the house.

It’s ours because we just broke the goddamn news somehow over Facebook.

Now we urgently tell her to call his parents.

Now we find the girl who started the damned group in the first place, who keeps posting pictures of her and R. last year – were they dating? Were they in love? On top of all this did R. have two girlfriends? Should we send her a message and ask?

None of this is our business.

Now the lines are all blurry.

Now we get the number of his mum in Melbourne and tell her to call it before she does anything else.

Now we can do nothing else.

Now we realize it’s always about us.

Now we feel relieved and then guilty that there’s nothing else we can do.

Now we get a message in our inbox the next day when we’re working. It’s just a link to a short article from a newspaper in Peru that shows a picture of an ambulance and a group of concerned Peruvians craning their necks somewhere to the back of it.

Turista muere en piscina.

Sarah Beuhler just got back from Guatemala and writes in Vancouver.

Photo via Travelpod

100 Comments / Post A Comment

ladyfriend@twitter

This is beautiful. I learned in this exact way that a close friend's fiance had been fatally struck by a car. There were fewer confusing moments of breaking the news -- mostly I had to process this information (delivered in a completely impersonal way) while on an awkward business trip with an off-putting traveling companion.

Hero of the Beach

This was lovely. I have nothing useful or intelligent to say, but it was really good.

parallel-lines

Sadly, this happened to me as well this spring - a friend from long ago fell off a pier in New Orleans and his body was missing for a month. I found out news and updates through the facebook group his mother started - which ended up being very valuable for finding people who could laison with the NOPD. But yes, it was so sad to get the group request.

Lemonnier

@parallel-lines Somehow, when I clicked on the link to this article, I just knew Jim would show up in these comments.

mmwm

@Lemonnier Johnnies here??

Julie Sangkarat@twitter

@parallel-lines was that reprobate?

parallel-lines

@Julie Sangkarat@twitter ...I'm not sure what you mean?

Lemonnier

@mmwm Not that I know of. I met him when he was in law school.

Lemonnier

@Julie Sangkarat@twitter Yes, that was reprobate.

parallel-lines

@Lemonnier Sorry if I offended you, certainly not my intention.

Lemonnier

@parallel-lines No, not offended at all! Amused, actually. Damn inability to convey tone on the internets!

lobsterhug

A friend of mine from grad school died when a tree fell on her during a windstorm in Turkey last year. It was the most surreal thing to be on Facebook and see all these remembrances that mutual friends were posting on her wall.

It was even worse when a couple of months ago someone hacked her account and posted spam.

crawdad

@lobsterhug ohhh that makes my stomach hurt :(

Heike

@lobsterhug mmm yes. My best friend died 3 years ago, and last year she suddenly sent me an email, offering me great prices on handbags.
Quite... upsetting, really- stupid but it felt like being mocked.

lobsterhug

@Heike Yes, very upsetting and so disrespectful. I mean, I hope it was just some bot because I can't stand to think that an actual person would hack an account, see all the sad wall posts and still go ahead with hijacking it.

Gnatalby

@Heike That is like, the worst thing I've heard. I'm sorry about your bestie.

Heike

@Gnatalby thanks for your sympathy :-)

Kate Musgrove

My father died last month at the age of 52 and I found out via Facebook. It was really early in the morning and I was alone and I just kept thinking Facebook, really? FACEBOOK?

Watts Up?

@Kate Musgrove That's horrifying. If I had found out about my dad's death from Facebook, I would have killed the Internet.

I'm really sorry for your loss. Losing your dad - especially at the relatively young age of 52, same here - is the fucking worst.

JessTheMess

@Kate Musgrove I sort of found out about my grandpa's death on Facebook. My mother would have called right away, but she died a few years earlier, so I had to wait till one of my aunts and uncles who lived closer realized they should let my arm of the family know. By then, half of my cousins had posted things like unhappy faces on FB, so while they weren't saying "RIP Grandpa!" I had a pretty good idea that it had happened. Not a good feeling.

So sorry about your father.

kaffeefee

@Kate Musgrove My teenage cousin posted about our grandmother passing away apparently within minutes of her death. Aaaaand that's how I saw the news. It was very strange, I think my anger towards my cousin was, at the time, equal to my grief. Confusing times.

hideously

@Kate Musgrove This is not the same, but mine died in 2004 while I was overseas, and I didn't find out until I returned. It was a month later and everyone else was already "over it." I'm not sure if it would have been worse to find out via Facebook. Probably. I'm sorry.

rivetingrosie

I really liked this. That's all.

Gnatalby

The worst way I found out about a death was in a PS on an email about sex. PS Did anyone tell you yet that T died?

I tend to assume the facebook ones are jokes, but they never have been.

crawdad

It's sad to me that the prevalence of such a casual medium ends up trivializing important things like death and relationships

alice b. tchotchke

@crawdad That, and everything gets wrapped up in so much voyeurism that it's hard to know where it ends and true grief begins.

mmwm

@alice b. tchotchke exactly

atipofthehat

Sorry you lost your friend and had to learn about it in that way. Happened to me this time last month -- a friend in Australia. Only news was on facebook--a memorial, with no description of what had happened. Read his old posts, texted and emailed with friends. Only now is the real news coming out.

alice b. tchotchke

I wish I didn't relate to this.

Lily Rowan

Ugh, I'm so sorry. To all of you.

karion

I am really sorry for your loss.

I similarly found out about the death of a friend earlier this year via facebook. It is such a jarring thing to read on a site I truly can't stand, anyway. It was macabre to watch the online ripple effect of people discovering the news. Ick.

Chiara Atik@facebook

Wow this was horrifying and beautifully written.

darianlo

This has me teary-eyed in my cubicle. Brought me right back to when I was a high school senior and found out one of my best friends had passed away over AIM. Thank you so much for this.

Sabriel

I am so sorry for your loss.
I found out about the death of a friend via a frantic text from someone else who saw it on Facebook. The worst part was getting a text from my dead friend's phone two days after the fact. Death and grief are already such surreal, disorienting experiences, never mind the disconnect of relying on the internet for communication, makes it that much harder to process.

femme cassidy

I am almost crying reading this. A dear friend and mentor of mine died in July (the day after Amy Winehouse, and now I'll never be able to listen to her without thinking of him), and yeah, basically everyone found out via Facebook. It was terrible. I'm so, so sorry for your loss.

dydd

I am so sorry you lost your friend.

About 7 years ago I found out a very close friend had taken her own life via a thread on a message board we were both casual members of. I was the first of our close friends to find out and being the one who had to tell everyone, one after another, was indescribably awful.

Seeing her 'online' on messenger for months afterwards was oddly comforting.

frigwiggin

I'm so sad for you.

My best friend died in January, and I was there at the hospital, and I had to text our other friend who lives in Chicago because I couldn't breathe, so I knew I couldn't call her. Figuring out how to tell who was one of the worst parts after she was gone.

frigwiggin

@figwiggin And I had to try and call my mom while she was in Costa Rica, not sure which phone number she was at and trying to decide which was worse, telling her while she was in another country or not telling her until she was back in the US. I called three numbers before I found her and she had to tell me to intercept a get-well-soon card she'd sent before leaving the country. I still have it, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

thebestjasmine

@figwiggin This whole story is so sad. My heart goes out to all of you.

Eliza Wharton

Thank you for this and I'm so sorry for your loss.

What comes after this still baffles me: the reminders of a birthday for a dead friend who is never going to get any older, status updates from another late, great friend's account by her sister. The digital afterlife can be so confusing- like all the lost friends are together in a room far off, somewhere adjacent to all the former best friends and ex-boyfriends, tagging pictures every six months to remind you that they were once there too.

Kivrin

A few years ago I got an e-mail from a friend's mother (whom I had never met). She was writing to let me know that my friend had attempted suicide and left a note saying, "Tell Kivrin that she was a good friend." Thankfully my friend called 911 before it was too late, and we're still friends to this day…but talk about a horrible e-mail.

Lucy Sanders@facebook

For anyone who's been through something similar to this, just an FYI- you can have a departed loved one's page set up as memorial status. Only current friends will be able to see it, no other friends can be added, and I think it won't be able to send/receive spam.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/6445152/Facebook-introduces-memorial-pages-to-prevent-alerts-about-dead-members.html

Tulletilsynet

It makes me want to quit Facebook asap so my kids won't learn I've bought it while they're sitting somewhere by themselves surfing the internet. But maybe they would anyway.

Carrot Cake

I'm so sorry. The way we communicate now necessarily involves some, if not much, disconnect, and relaying information so heavy over these channels always feels terribly wrong. There's no etiquette rule or guidelines to follow, each situation is so singular.

Moments after my father passed, my sister posted it to Facebook. Her words were "daddys dead" just like that. I am thankful my mother called me at work and I didn't happen to be on Facebook at that moment. I know my sister was in shock, but watching those two lonely, grammatically unsound words strung together was less than wonderful.

This was beautifully written, thank you.

Dancercise

Thank you for sharing this. A surprising number of people in my high school graduating class have been killed in car accidents in the last few years, and I've had way too many of these experiences.

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

If I'm remembering correctly, Facebook has a procedure to place a profile in stasis in case of death, which suppresses things like birthday reminders. I think. They actually require a heavy burden of proof for this.

tigerlily

@Too Much Internet Yes, there is something that you can do. I didn't have to do it, but my friend's brother (after she had passed) did do this after her first birthday came up and we were all prompted to write on her wall :(

Susanna@twitter

I have an aquaintance whose April Fool's day prank was pretending to be dead on Facebook. So not Funny.

H.E. Ladypants

My father died in a car accident just under four weeks ago. I was the first in the family to know and for various reasons involving cabins and an utter lack of cell phone service, I was the only member of my immediate family to know.

You captured very well the awful confusion of "what am I responsible for now."

It was me making phone calls to other relatives and deciding what to do. All the while I was asking myself if I should be waiting somehow, if I had the right to make the decisions of who to tell and when and how. And then it hit me that, yes, even though I am the youngest, I was the one who had to make those decisions now.

I was at my boyfriend's at the time and had no immediate access to the phone numbers of most of my relatives, whom I sadly don't call often enough for them to be in my cell phone. It was midnight and I sent a message to a cousin via facebook asking her to call me when she woke up. Knowing that she would have numbers. That she could make phone calls while I flew 2000 miles to go home.

Then I felt horrible using facebook. It seemed awful and cheap and I felt terribly estranged. In retrospect, without geography to bind us together, I don't think I've ever been so glad that there was a way to keep me in touch with the people whose connections I take utter for granted so that they were there when I needed them with no effort on my part.

atipofthehat

@H.E. Ladypants

I'm sure it was important to everyone that you did what you had to do in the best way you could at the time. Not sure there's a good way or a good time to hear or tell such awful news. Good that you weren't alone at the time, though.

H.E. Ladypants

@atipofthehat Thanks. It's a just a weird anxiety. Death is totally the realm of very little protocol combined with a surreal fear of making an enormous mess.

mmwm

Really like this piece of writing. Thanks,

Hannah Stephenson@twitter

This needed to be written. Thank you so much for writing it.

lovelettersinhell

This is good timing for me to be reading this. This week was the birthday of one of my friends; He died four years ago, and several of us found out via facebook. We were also able to get the information on the funeral and coordinate travel there via facebook, since it was the summer.

euphoria

This article made me feel awful. I'm from a pretty small town, and my mom called me on a Saturday to tell me that one of my good friend's uncle had died that day. I waited til Monday and sent him a text saying I was sorry about his uncle and to call me later if he wanted to talk, they were close.

So about an hour later I get a VERY upset and confused phonecall from my friend whose parents are vacationing in bali and no one else had numbers for him and his brother. So that was a horrible conversation of having to tell someone that their uncle (who I never met!) Had died. Ugh.

karion

Earlier this week, an old high school friend posted about the very recent (that morning) death of her dad.

After reacting in the usual two step (sympathy, then concern about my own dad), I admit that I was judgey as all hell. Facebook is where you announce it? Mothereffing Facebook on a Saturday morning?

And because it was so recent, she was raw and her sentiments were gushy and overwrought, as they absolutely are entitled to be, and as I would absolutely expect had I been in her living room. But I was judgey because it was Facebook and I am now certain that I was an asshole for that.

Truth is, had she not announced it, and had it been one of about 167 other hours in the week, I wouldn't have seen it. And I don't troll the obits of my hometown paper, so I wouldn't have known for months. Most likely, the next time I saw her - when I asked her how her dad was doing.

science is sexy@twitter

@karion Imagine telling someone your dad died. And then telling someone else. And someone else. And then over and over and every time your heart breaks a little more until you are certain you will run out of tears and then eventually you do and you feel guilty about not crying anymore.

It's easier to do it once, publicly, and let the news spread virally.

missedconnections

@science is sexy@twitter you make an excellent, excellent point and I'm glad I read through the comments. I saw the same thing happen not long ago - a friend's father died, and she posted it on Facebook. I thought it was tacky, comparing it to the time when my family member had died and I stayed off Facebook for a while. But, I need to remember that not everyone reacts the same to a death in the family and at the end of the day, it's none of my damn business how she wanted the news to get out.

H.E. Ladypants

@karion I admit that shortly after my dad died I made a post on an internet forum that most of my friends are on. (We are dorks, we have our own forum.) A day or so later my boyfriend made a post on facebook. The reasoning was that people needed to know why we were going to disappear off the face of the earth for a little while and you do get very tired, very quickly of having to repeat the same horrible thing over and over again.

Doing so meant that I got to greatly reduce the likelihood of what has become the most hated sentence any human could ask me right now: "So have you been having a fun summer?" (That feels like being hit by a sledgehammer. And then you have to explain. And it's horrible. Always.)

That said, it would have probably struck me as pretty crass, too had I not been on the other end. Having been there, though, I get why you'd do it. It's pretty much the same function as putting an obit in the paper, even if it does come out super weird.

thebestjasmine

@karion I actually think that this is one of the best uses of Facebook -- to let everyone in your life know something terrible that has happened to you at once, both so that they're aware and so that you don't have to tell them over and over again about your loss. I see nothing tacky about it.

Dialogue_Dub

It's sort of comforting to know that this has happened to so many people.

I had an experience this year where an acquaintance of mine from college was struck by a vehicle and killed about a half mile from my work. We both had the same major, and worked in the same industry. I came home that night to find it all over facebook. I think the fact of how I found out, coupled with the fact it happened -right- by me shook me up. Furthermore, the next day riding the subway downtown, I saw my friend's picture over the shoulder of someone reading the newspaper. I just about lost it, it was terrible.

She was one of those people that I had met, and had classes with, but was definitely a "I will probably know this person at some point, we have mutual friends, she seems interesting!" person to me.

I only really began to get over the strange, awkward, second-hand grief when I attended the candlelight vigil and saw mutual friends and professors.

Seeing a professor cry, it's horrible.

ellbeejay

Thank you. I'm sorry. Thank you.

sophi

I'm so sorry for your loss, as well as for everyone else's who've commented. It's always sad in threads like this how many people have relevant stories to tell.

Mine: Last summer, my high school theatre teacher died, and I got to be the one to break the news on facebook, since my parents were friends with him, so they found out immediately. It was horrible - I had no idea what to say, I couldn't remember who had known him and who hadn't, and I had no information about the specifics of what had happened or about the memorial service or anything. All I knew is that someone who had meant so much to every student who had known him was dead, and I had to be in charge, just for a minute.

Elmo Keep

Oh. So, so beautiful and sad.

tigerlily

I'm sorry for your loss. It's terrible to lose anyone, especially someone young or closer to your own age. My friend and I both read your article and have been talking about our opinions on this matter. We're in agreement that Facebook is a great tool for keeping up with people, but its users have abused its purpose and have substituted actual verbal conversing for wall comments and IMs. I've been reading these comments and it looks like it's not an issue with Facebook etiquette (in some cases), it's an issue with people not having either common sense or social decency for some stuff that gets automatically posted into their status. I have no idea when sharing every immediate thought, feeling or something 'newsworthy' became acceptable to do. But, I digress.

At the conclusion of your article, my friend turned and said to me, "If I die, please, post it on Facebook." This isn't sarcasm. He said this because he studied abroad for over a year in Europe and made friends from every continent, over a dozen countries, and across a couple languages. It was more important to him that these friends would find out the truth than to never find it out at all, or find out well after the fact. I can appreciate this because I'm not going to have the phone numbers or e-mails for all of his friends in Turkey and Switzerland and Costa Rica. I knew a girl with whom I shared a class in college, a particularly difficult one and we supported each other through it. Then she transferred to another college on the other side of the state and I figured, well, we were Facebook friends and we could talk there. I had her number but I wasn't going to expect a call from her or anything. Two years later, I found out that not long after she had transferred, she was killed in a car accident. We didn't come from the same hometown, we weren't at the same school anymore and it's not as though it would show up somewhere else. I remember wishing I had found out on Facebook when it happened so I could have paid my respects.

But I have been in a situation where I did not want people to find out on Facebook. One of my dearest, closest friends died in a tragic accident on her way to work one evening. The police notified her parents, who lived in another state, late into the night. Here, in the USA (for the non-USA readers and writer), once a family is notified, the newspapers can release names of people that passed. Come morning, as my friend's parents are driving the four hours to the city where her older brother lived to tell him in person, the newspapers had already released the story of the accident. I cannot tell you how absolutely, beyond-words devastated I was when I happened to click on a news article online and there was her name in black and white. I immediately called her brother, who had just then found out from his parents, and then I had to be the one to call people I didn't want them to find out on Facebook. One of those calls still makes me ill to think about years later. Another one of her friends did make a group after those of us that were close to her were notified, and it was a nice thing to have because it was clear she was well loved. Even a year after she had passed, there were still people that commented that they had only just found out, and felt terrible about it.

Online social media has become what is normal for communication anymore, and frankly it's sad. When was the last time someone *called* a friend instead of sending a text or an IM? If something were to happen to me, I know that my family has the information of those that I consider to be my closest or best friends, and that they would not find out on Facebook. Maybe this is because I'm more conscious of what can happen without real contact information, like a phone number, because of my own experiences. Facebook is such murky territory.

karion

@tigerlily: as lovely as your comment is on its own, it was simply wonderful with this endearing accent I gave you. Kind of like Fabian in Pulp Fiction.

I have no idea why I gave you an accent at all, let alone that one. It must be the solemn nature of the subject matter.

tigerlily

@karion: That was oddly complimentary! I went back and re-read it like Fabian and it does sound even more endearing. If my comments had voice-overs, I would have her do it.

Flies in my eyes

@tigerlily Well said! Pros and cons to Facebook. It seems sad that we must rush to contact someone with our own voice, to beat the impersonal communication found through such sites. Seems that for those closest a phone call or in person communication would occur, just sadly sometimes not as quick as a Facebook update or in your case a news article. Strange times we live in...

JoAnn, Sidewalk Chic@twitter

This, all of this. A couple years ago I had to be the one to tell everyone ever that my dad had died very suddenly of a heart attack, and I chose to do it in a Facebook status and note. I found it much easier to get it done in a public forum so I could get it over quickly and coordinate stuff like funeral details.

The worst part for me was having to make phone calls. Having to tell all your aunts/uncles that their brother died is the worst. For a whole week my phone blew up with so many voicemails and texts that I started to dread my phone (kind of like an effed-up Pavlovian experiment).

I'm so sorry for your loss.

petejayhawk

A few years ago, an ex-girlfriend was murdered by the guy she left me for. I haven't been able to bring myself to remove her as a Facebook friend (we stayed friendly after the breakup, even as she grew less social and retreated into her abusive, paranoid relationship). Occasionally, my assortment of random Facebook pictures on my profile will show pictures she posted of us. It is difficult. On her birthday, Facebook tells me annually to leave a happy birthday message. That seems inappropriate.

everythingbagel

It's this kind of vulnerability that i crave and adore on the Hairpin.

She Saved The World, Alot

A little over a year ago a girl I knew in high school was killed. It was actually a very horrifying story - her father went crazy, murdered his whole family. I found out when my friend texted me "Did you hear about [this girl]?" and it never occurred to me that something so awful could have happened. I texted back "No, haha, what's she up to??" because we used to sing a capella together. And eventually I signed on facebook and saw all the bizarre posts on her wall, we love you, we'll miss you, you're in a better place looking down on us. It was so strange and kinda creepy to see something like that on the internet. I was VERY shaken after seeing that and watching it on the news. I talked to a friend about it, and he said that he wants his facebook page deleted after he "goes" (honestly I dont even like writing or thinking about stuff like this. It feels like a jinx, which is silly, but there it is). It was so weird, I never thought about people facebook accounts sticking around after they've died. People
still post on her wall, wish her happy birthday, say that they miss her, and it seems so incredibly strange and - I agree - inappropriate to have someone's memory linger on something like Facebook.

sophia_h

@pastina I don't know if we're talking about the same person (the girl I knew died this past January), but I had exactly that same experience when all of a sudden a lot of college acquaintances started making upsetting brief posts about her and I actually had to google her to find out what happened. Every so often people tag her in photos or talk about her and it's always startling and upsetting, even eight months later.

Flies in my eyes

Thank you for this...well written article, beautiful. As with many here I also found out about a friend's death on Facebook. I have mixed emotions about it. First angry about the isolation that is felt when I found out, disbelief really. Being alone, not a person telling me...but a news update. Later thankful that I did find out through this medium, as she was a university friend and did not know her family. Luckily I found out on time, through facebook to go to her funeral. Amazing to meet her family and friends, that I would not of met otherwise. We all keep in touch periodically through Facebook. Her page in many ways has become a memorial, but many of us find this cathartic.
So I understand the surrealism and general weirdness Facebook can add to the grief after a loss of someone close, or worse finding out about their death. But it does make connection with people who we may not otherwise have opportunity, so for me personally, it has been surprisingly helpful for me.
I've also appreciated the comments. Great discussion :)

D.@twitter

Yet more evidence that pools are sinister, dangerous places...

nocomment

I just dealt with this. A lifelong friend's sister passed away unexpectedly, and it spread all over FB within hours. I've always hated the FB memorials because I find it weirdly competitive in a way - like who can post the most intimate or moving memories, but that night I just kept refreshing her page over and over again watching the RIP messages accumulate. I also was the first of my friends to know, and telling my friends so we could all be there for our friend was one of the worst things I've ever had to do.

LoonyLovegood

When my grandfather passed away, my Mom announced his death with an e-mail (cc'ed to my brother) that had the subject line: RIP Grandpa. That was the first thing I saw when I logged into my inbox. I was in grad school at the time and thank goodness I wasn't in the computer lab because then my classmates would have seen me burst into sobs. Oh, and THANK GOODNESS Facebook wasn't around back then. A lot of people absolutely do not understand Internet boundaries and my Mom is (or was, after I oh-so-gently schooled her) one of them.

Unaccompanied Lady

This is how things are now.

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Liz A Bear

This is evocative and beautifully written, I am so sorry for your loss.

whimseywisp

Thank you for the post & the comments. Thoughtful & engaging as always. Hairpin, you make my life better :).

xiphod beeblebrox

Just registered to say that this struck a nerve. Thank you. Even in pre-fb days, to be the one to tell is a fraught, frightening position, and instant digital mass communication adds its own landmines. Ultimately, though, I think the facebok grief mechanism does more good than harm. As this post and the comments demonstrate, we want to tell our stories. We want to tell about our loved ones, so that they won't be so inexorably gone. And if I post my first love's photo on my wall the day after his death, or if I get invited to a "Your Ex-Coworker's Memorial Service" event, well, isn't that the best of social networking AND communal grief? The gathering place, where we can share our stories?

bruschetta

It's surreal when you're one of the first people to find out. One of my best friends died and I knew before the masses. His facebook was untouched by sad wall posts. Everything seemed normal. I could sit there for a little while and convince myself it wasn't real.

Psychbucket

With so many of you recounting the painful feeling of learning about loved ones' deaths online, it strengthens my decision to have a list of all my accounts and passwords in the lockbox my best friend has been instructed to open as soon as possible should I pass away before her. (It's likely; I am 13 years older than her.) It's my wish that my online presence be deleted promptly after my death so no one will be seemingly getting emails and the like from me beyond the pale.

BeccaTheCyborg

When one of my best friends died, I found him. He had passed away in his sleep of a congenital heart defect. His roommate and I called 911, and I, in shock, gave them his parents' address so they could go break the news. I called my partners and told them. We convened at my apartment, and began the process of telling others. I emailed his thesis advisors, one partner called his work to tell them he wouldn't make his next shift, the other called her sister/his other roommate, who had just started a new job that day to tell her what she would be coming home to. Then we three started the slow process of telling everyone else, mostly over the internet while trying to hold together and do things like clean up his stuff. It was surreal.

Thank you for this .

blee

I'm a few days late in reading this post, but thank you for it.

In April, I found out that my cousin had passed away through Facebook. He had been in a scuba diving accident halfway around the world, where my uncle and his family live. I don't live close to my immediate family either, but somehow managed to find really cheap plane tickets home for that weekend; when I bought the tickets, he was in a medically induced coma and the prognosis did not look good. I took the earliest flight out of Philadelphia and was playing around on my phone on the train from the airport to my parents' house when I saw my aunt's Facebook status. I had just spoken to my mom, who was picking me up at the station, and she hadn't mentioned anything. So I called her right back and she said that she was sorry I had found out that way and that she had wanted to tell me in person. It didn't make that much of a difference to me. I had already prepared myself for the fact that he probably wouldn't make it. They actually got the call that he had passed just before I texted them to let them know that I had boarded my flight and was on my way.

When we got back to my parents' house, my dad had just bought plane tickets to fly overseas for the funeral and part of the shiva period; he left for the airport about three hours after I arrived. My sister had come home from college the night before and my brother drove up from his apartment in Atlanta to meet us. It was all very convoluted but my sister and I ended up going over to his apartment while my mom drove my dad to the airport. My brother doesn't really check Facebook and I guess that in all of the business and confusion, nobody had told him...so while he was driving my sister and I, he asked how our cousin was doing and I was like, "You don't know? He passed away." He had to fight back tears while on the highway.

My uncle has kept my cousin's Facebook page going and occasionally posts messages through it. They're all in a different language so I use google translate to figure out what he's saying. It's mostly notifications about the foundation they are setting up in his name or different ways they are remembering him on various holidays. I still feel weird every time I see a new Facebook update in his name.

Anyway, again. Thank you for this.

blee

additionally: I am so sorry for your loss.

Sean_P

About a million years BF (before Facebook) I was home from college for the summer, when the phone rang late at night. I woke up about the time I heard mom pick up the phone, then her concerned voice, but couldn't make out what she was saying. Then she came to get me to tell me I needed to come to the phone. My good friend and college roommate had died in a a jeep wreck during National Guard training. Being told of an untimely death over the phone: horrible. But I'm sure a facebook notification must have been worse. I'm sorry.

Sean_P

And on the other hand: another friend of mine from college died recently after a long battle with kidney cancer. Facebook was actually rather comforting for all involved: it allowed him to say goodbye to a bunch of people who might not have been able to do so in any other way, and seeing all the expressions of sympathy was (I believe) comforting to him and his family in the final weeks. So, death: hard to hear about no matter what the medium, I guess.

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