Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Buckup Facebook Friends

In modern life, or rather life in the 21st Century, one must get comfortable or at the very least, manage a life in a complex world--and one must get comfortable and manage one's e-life in an equally complex virtual world. The bereaved navigate emails, blogs, forums, work google docs, and social networking sites just like everyone else. Grief is a real and tangible experience, and expressing it in a virtual world is difficult at times. It's also quite lonely and in a society that seems to want only happy and no sad, it can be painfully isolating.

Of the places where e-life is difficult, Facebook poses numerous challenges. It seems many of us have given in to a life on the internet. We are becoming that kind of society. I can't imagine it ever being OK, for parents to not grieve their children. After all grief isn't virtual, it's real. You feel it in every cell of your body, every neuron in your brain, and every space in your soul. But, does grief belong on FB? It's a social networking site after all, be sociable.

Yet, FB seems to be a social network where "friends" seem to only want to hear happy things. But, wait, that's not exactly true, unhappy things can also be posted, but those should fall under the categories of "rambling on endlessly about nothing" or "self-indulgent complaints about none life-threatening situations" or "sarcastic rants about this and that." Post a real, raw and human emotion and be prepared to be ignored or deleted. I think most bereaved parents find it difficult to participate in a faux life--even on the net. Why wouldn't we post about the most significant event in our lives in the past year or so? The answer seems to be "we do" and frequently we are silenced because "friends" don't want to hear about it. To be clear, this is pretty much what we encounter in real life, too. So, we go to forums, blogs, memorial pages, and the like to express what few want to hear, but I digress.

It seems acceptable to gush honestly on FB, but grieve no. I would be all over it if Caitlin had lived."Name is watching her daughter throw Cherrios around." That post would get dozens of thumbs up and comments like, "wait till they throw soup." But, dare to post, "Name is visiting his child's grave" and more isolation may ensue. A friend with 400+ "friends" posted that s/he missed her niece who had died as a child and 2 of us replied with messages of support.

It's perfectly acceptable to whine on FB. That's fine, I guess, everyone ought to have a space to voice some frustration and irritation. "Name is sick today." "Name got a parking ticket." Numerous friends respond with "that sucks" or "I'm sorry you're not feeling well."

So, I say: Buck up FB friends! When you read "Name is missing her child today," try continuing to be human and respond with "that sucks" and "I'm sorry."

[There, I said it and I'm glad. I could have saved 477 words, if I had just started with that!]


  1. Once again, you hit it right on the head for me. I had noticed that very thing on FB. After combing through hundreds of pieces of flair, I did actually find some for people who are grieving. But overall it seems like a place where relationships are fairly shallow, even if your real-life relationships with the "friends" are much deeper. Perhaps it's because EVERYONE will see your "wall". It makes it a little riskier to have real conversation. Sort of like the "How are you doing today?" dilemma. When the Wal-mart cashier asks you that question, he/she surely does not expect a real answer. Especially for me in those first few weeks after losing my son, I HATED answering that. I still don't like it. It feels dishonest to say, "I'm fine. How are you?" Yet it seems rude to say, "Well, if you really want to know, I am missing my dead baby terribly, and want to cry for a few years. Maybe for the rest of my life."
    Why is that not okay to say? Why can't my status be, "M is feeling completely miserable"?
    Let's start a new trend on Facebook. How are you REALLY doing? :)

  2. Awesome post - and I couldn't agree more. I wish that folks would offer more support - after all they're supposed to be our FB "friends", aren't they?

  3. Right on! I had noticed the same thing, and I guess I have kind of perpetuated it myself. I post grief-related thoughts and feelings on my blog, but never on my FB page. At some point, I stopped posting "Updates" on FB at all. Anyway . . . thanks for your post. I have been thinking a lot lately about the invisibility of death and grief in our society. If we are sincere on FB, maybe it will raise awareness a little. And if we aren't sincere, well, what's the point?

  4. If your post allowed for a thumbs up, that's exactly what you'd get from me.

  5. This is why I deleted myself, twice, from stupid Facebook. I don't belong there anymore, and that was made painfully obvious. If you still hang around there, you're braver than I am.

  6. I LOVE this post!!
    Every bit of it true, true, true!
    I have had several people email and ask why I never visit my FB page. It just all seems so on-the-surface superficial to me. I just can't do it. Nobody wants to hear that I thought of Victoria several times today, or how my heart breaks when my eleven year old tells me it makes him sad that he doesn't know his sister.
    People want to hear that after 12 years I never even think of her...that makes them more comfortable. It makes me feel sick.
    And angry.

  7. Hi, I just found you through Stirrup Queen's most recent post. You have a beautiful blog.

    While not specifically about loss, I've too felt the same way about Facebook, which I only joined a couple weeks ago. Lots of 'friends' who aren't really interested in reading "Liana is disappointed that it's Day 17 and there's still no egg white cervical mucous." But then I do have Friends who actually would be intereated in that, or at least understanding of it. So do we post the truth, knowing our Real Friends won't be bothered, or do we keep up appearances and not bother those 'friends' who don't want our darkness clouding their sunny lives? I suppose I know the answer to that question, but it's a little awkward to get acting on it.

  8. I never had much going on with F,B until I started blogging here and new friends found me there, so there I stayed. And when I miss my son I write that I miss him there as well as here.

    It is superficial but sometimes that's all I can cope with!


  9. Dear All, Thanks for your comments and adding to conversation. Seems many of us see the superficial nature of an electronic social network, but have also found real aid from other electronic connections.

    Barbara, I know my blog has been instrumental in my healing since losing my child. FB has been something I tolerate and am learning to navigate.

    Liana, Thanks for finding me. I love that Mel from "Stirrup" links women (and men) together. There's plenty of loss in IF, loss of hope, no implantation, another "failed" cycle, and sometimes miscarriage. I know that journey as well. It's all about love, and that's why we bear it. (((hugs)))

    Hope's Mama, I was stunned to read your words, "I deleted myself twice." I still get surprised by language of FB--the announcement of "so-and-so are friends" and the use of "delete" for a friend. But, that is the way of e-life. Thinking of you and your precious Hope.

    Fake vs. sincere aren't strangers to real life, and now these are reflected in e-life.

  10. Ahhh, Facebook. I had my status as "Emily would like to remain pregnant for 2 more weeks" when Desmond died. After much debate, I changed my status to "Emily is mourning the loss of her son Desmond Zink Kirchner, 7 lbs, 13 oz, 21 inches long."

    Not exactly the best way to honor my son or to tell about my most heartbreaking moment , but I decided it was the best way to get the most number of people to know. I hated doing it.

    And I did get dozens of responses, notes and everything. Now I only respond over email though, not on the wall for everyone to see.

    And I typically change my status to something sad once a month. I'm sure some people block me. And I always respond when someone writes something sad.

  11. Blogging about our Facebook woes...seems a common thread for many of us. I love that you called it out. I too found it shallow, not a place where I wanted to be or felt comfortable being and decided I am not ready for it. I love my blog, and my friends blogs, and that is where I'm at right now.

    Thank you for this post!

  12. Amy, I couldn't agree more about the comfort and support felt in the blogosphere. Very different from FB. BTW I love you blog, love how you write and the sincere and honest way in which you do this---((((hugs))))

    Emily, I didn't post your comment because it had your full name and just in case you don't want that public I took the first segment and posted it "from me." I'm inspired by you!!!


    "Ok, inspired by your post, I changed my status and posted a link to a salon article about stillbirth."

    Emily, I friended you on FB!!!

  14. After reading all the comments, I feel compelled to comment again. I really want to add a bunch of moms to my FB friends, like all of you, who've walked in my shoes. But, hesitate to do so b/c my blog is anonymous. I don't want my real life friends or my superficial FB friends reading my blog. The two worlds can't overlap too much, or my blog will be outed. Thus, I'm slowly approaching blog moms to befriend me on FB. But, I just really need to protect my blog from the superficiality of FB.

  15. I think this is the best place for this. Fellow bereaved moms you can email me at a5thseason@gmail.com.

    Mommy (you can call me OM) I would be honored to friend you on FB and I GET not wanting the two lives to intersect, so it's OK not to bring bereaved life with FB life, too. So, I'm happy to remain your loyal reader here on the blogosphere as well!

    I post on FB about my grief rarely, but when I do I get frustrated with the ignorance, silence, and inability of some to know what compassion feels like. But, I keep trying.

    Snarky I'd be honored if you mentioned the blogname, not a problem. Thanks for asking and as always your messages of support.

  16. I got fed up with the inane comments on FB and deleted myself. I feel that my grief has colored my world differently and I'm unable to "socialize" on FB as everyone else.
    I'm glad you're able to conntinue on FB while admitting your grief for all to see.

  17. I belong to "Circle of Mom's" on FB and there are several communities for mom's in our shoes. Doesn't change the shallowness of your main wall... When I have written something in the past (when it was mostly family members who were my "friends") I always got responses like "Oh, that made me sad!" or something. One time someone actually wrote "I wish I could give you a hug, it would make ME feel better!" She actually said "ME" I didn't know if it was a typo or what. But I chuckled, more so in disbelief than humor I think. I try to keep the two worlds seperate. I come here for support, I go there for a chuckle. But it is sad that even on the virtual front people shuffle their feet, look away and don't say anything...even when they're given the benefit of time to think and not having to look you in the eyes.

  18. I totally agree. FB seems to cater to the happy, rainbows and butterflies of life. I have a friend that posted that it was the anniversary of her mother's death. She too only had 2 or 3 replies..her post a few days later of being happy American Idol was back on got about 15 or 20. She commented on that fact. :) Good for her. How are it is to give some {{HUGS}}?

    I am sorry for you loss. I can't imagine how it could be for you. I am sending you some hugs from ICLW!!!