Skip to main content

How Facebook Helped With Grief

On a recent Sunday morning, we received a call from my husband’s sister. She reported that their father had had a massive stroke and had been taken to the Mayo Clinic. It is difficult hearing this news under any circumstances, but it was particularly challenging since we live nearly 1000 miles away in Baltimore. With the help of technology, we sprang into action and made plans.

Throughout our travels the next day, we were able to stay connected - to our friends and family, to our work, and to the hospital where my father-in-law was being treated.

My husband posted the news about his dad on his Facebook page, and throughout the day was getting posts of support from his network. This was exceedingly comforting to him. Facebook has been in the news a lot lately and not in a good way. The reports about how our data is being exploited is concerning and everyone needs consider how best to protect themselves. Despite the recent headlines, during this family crisis, I was reminded that at its core Facebook is a tool to help connect with family and friends online.

After arriving at the hospital and meeting with his medical team, the reports were not good and everyone agreed that it was time to initiate end-of-life care.

It was hard to know what he was hearing and comprehending, but we spent the next few days at his bedside and shared with him the messages we were receiving. It felt wonderful to be able to tell him about all the people that were thinking about him. My husband and sister-in-law’s Facebook accounts were full of messages of support and memories about their dad. These posts were a good reminder of the life he had and many lives he touched. Researchers are starting to study the impact social media is having on the grieving process. I can report to us it was invaluable. My father-in-law, Keith, passed away less than two weeks after that Sunday morning call. In a recent Facebook post, a family member commented about how excited he would have been to see his favorite team, the Kansas Jayhawks, make it to the Final Four. I was glad to be reminded. I smiled thinking about him.