Well-intentioned people are often at a loss as to what to say to a parent who has lost a child and sometimes get it horribly wrong. In a blog post for the Huffington Post, Dianne Gray, a mother who lost her 14 year old son, Austin, to a degenerative disease and president of Hospice and Healthcare Communications describes the role that social media can play in helping to facilitate the grieving process when a loved one dies.
Dianne describes the awful feeling of isolation that resulted from ten years spent caring for her son and watching him suffer as his condition deteriorated until he was no longer capable of movement, sight or speech. She writes that after Austin’s death, the isolation continued as she felt there was nobody who could fully comprehend what it was she had gone through and was continuing to experience as she grieved for her son. Even parents she had met in the hospital tended to avoid her in order not to be reminded of what could happen to their own child.
In answer to those who feel that social media is not the place to post notices about the death of a loved one Dianne says: “I’d argue that dealing with death is hard with or without Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If anything, social media is just making it easier for us to see how bad we are at dealing with grief.” She goes on to say that it was Facebook that helped her to see that she was not alone in her experiences and that there were other people who understood what it was like to lose a child.
Social media, she says, can be the springboard for important conversations about death and grief that many tend to avoid and while this may be uncomfortable for some, it serves to demonstrate that grief is a process.
She also admits that social media in its current form is not the perfect platform for the expression of grief. For example, she says that it seems wrong to “like” a status about someone’s passing but it still remains a way to connect with others who have had similar experiences helping to alleviate feelings of isolation.