My grandmother passed away late last night after a lengthy illness that got progressively worse in the last several months. We all knew it was coming. I hate saying that, but the whole of our very large family just knew she wasn’t going to make it til the end of summer. She celebrated her 95th birthday earlier this year, and had a happy life full of 9 kids, a bunch of grand children, and even a few great grand children and great great grandchildren.
Now, because the family is so large, and because we are spread out over several different states, news of any kind often takes some time to trickle through all the branches of the family tree. Today, social media complicated things. I don’t mind Facebook. It’s a great way to keep in touch with my family who lives in different states, and see pictures that I might not get to see otherwise. But while I was waiting for my ride to work this morning, I happened to check Facebook on my phone. The first thing that popped up was a status from a cousin saying something to the effect of “Rest in Peace Grandma”. Yes, that’s right, I found out my grandmother died via Facebook. The whole situation was further complicated by the fact that my aunt called me to get some details about the obituary, and when she mentioned my mother, she made it sound like my mother knew. I then called my mother to find out if there was anything else I needed to know. Well, as it turns out, my mother didn’t know. I wound up being the one who informed my mother that her own mother had died. All because of Facebook. I feel awful, and as much as I love my cousins and aunts and all of that, I wish all of them would have recognized that news doesn’t always move so fast, and that Facebook really isn’t the best way to find out. 0813-12
Yes, I encountered the same thing last year. I was perusing Facebook on an early Sunday afternoon and noticed a friend’s status said, “Praying for (wife, three kids) in their time of mourning.” Well, that was cryptic. I called her and found out that the father of this family had died suddenly and very unexpectedly of a heart attack right after church. I suggested she take down her Facebook status since that was not information she was privileged to publicly share and she did. It turns out the minor aged children of the deceased had not yet been told that their father had died and had they found out via Facebook, this would have been tragic.
There is a reason why police departments or the military do not release the names of the deceased until family has been notified. It is profoundly wrong to know that information before the family and release that information without family consent. But in any community or circle of friends there are always those who race to be the first to share news and get the drama started. There is no compelling reason I can think of for the need to splat one’s guts in a Facebook status about your personal grief. Memorials honoring the deceased can wait a day or two and are quite suitable for posting the day of the funeral.