Condolences On Social Media
In a time when social media has given people a platform to share their entire life, how do we respond when a life ends? What is the best way to express your condolences?
Recently a young man in my community passed away suddenly, I did business with him in the past and I love his family. It was my pleasure to have known him, he was a wonderful, kind and generous person. I posted his obituary on our website www.deathnotices.online. Then, I sat down to write the family a sympathy note. I pulled out a monogrammed card, placed it on the desk in front of me, and proceeded to stare at it blankly. Those who know me understand that it’s not too often that I am at a loss for words.
Offering a written expression of condolence (from the Latin word condolere, to grieve or to suffer with someone) used to be a fundamental of polite society.
But these days, as Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, and Twitter has become the acceptable way to communicate, the rules of expressing sympathy have become sanitized and represented by plethora of emoji. “Sorry about ____. Sad face, sad face, crying face, heart, heart, unicorn.”
Yesterday, I found that to be completely untrue. I arrived 30 minutes before his Celebration of Life Mass and found a line extending out the back doors of the church. People in our community came to share their love and condolences with the family, it was a beautiful tribute to their son.
I’d like to share this information for those who have no experience or are out of practice in comforting someone in their grief, here are few tips to make it easier to share your condolences.
- PRAYER. Is the best healer. Not sure how to go about it? Here is something you can share: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” –2 Corinthians 1:3-4
- BEING TONGUE-TIED IS O.K. It’s perfectly acceptable to admit you don’t know what to say.
- SHARE A POSITIVE MEMORY. Think of your own relation to the loved one. You realize this person had impact beyond you and share that.
- NO COMPARISONS. Avoid the temptation to say you know what the other person is going through. Everyone experiences grief differently. The temptation is to bring it back to yourself, but this is not about you.
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE THE WORD ‘DEATH’. The word Death in our culture has become so sanitized, we have become afraid to mention it by name. While this instinct has good intentions, it often does not have the desired result.
- GET REAL. By contrast, grievers hear so many hollow phrases that a little straight talk can often be a welcome relief. A little bluntness goes a long way.
- SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT ENOUGH. These days many people first learn of the death of a friend’s loved one via social media. The instinct to post a comment or dash off an email is understandable. Even heartfelt gestures like these do not replace a condolence note. Commenting in public forums or sending an email is an acceptable first gesture, as long as you follow with a handwritten note and, whenever possible, attendance at the funeral or visitation.
- THERE’S NO TIME LIMIT ON SYMPATHY. While writing immediately is comforting, it’s not necessary. Many mourners are overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath, cards that arrived weeks or even months after the death are especially appreciated.
- DO SOMETHING Take the deceased’s pet for a walk, run an errand, offer to pick up a relative from the airport. Or, fall back on what loving supporters have been doing for generations: Send food, even if it’s by mail.
Patricia Burngasser is the founder of DeathNotices.Online, an Online Global repository for Obituaries and Death Notices. To learn more click here: deathnotices.online/about-us/