Facebooking Death

My client said something so brilliant- I can't stop thinking about it.
She'd lost a friend tragically. And as we unraveled all the particulars of her experience, she grappled for the right words to express her feelings.

"Facebooking Death"

...I sat with that for a minute. 

She went on to describe a phenomenon (one I've seen personally) of people expressing well-wishes for the grieving family via Facebook (or any number of care websites really). Sending posts and even gift cards, while remaining on the outside.

The longer we talked, the more I got a visual. I've seen it myself.
The absolute OVER involvement on one hand... while still leaving the mourning in total isolation.

Most ancient traditions and religions have a communal response to tragedy. Sitting shiva, for instance. And even until very recently, I can remember stories about family "bringing a casserole" to the grieving- every night for the next 3 months.  What every grief tradition seems to have in common: they tell the grieving person: "You are not alone in this."

But I have seen those traditions disappear around me. In suburban modern america we don't know our neighbors. We don't build community. We "facebook life"... and so, of course, we "facebook death".

We allow a photo of a newborn and a wall post to substitute for bringing the new family a meal or washing a dish. We allow a birthday wish to substitute for a phone call or a card or a party. We allow blogging to substitute for being together. It was only a matter of time before death became the same.

You've all seen it- the Facebook page serves as a virtual yearbook of sympathies from every person they've ever met. Meanwhile, the grieving person sits alone on the other end of the screen. 

Is this good for us? It feels so wrong to me.

And here's where I'll confess something that's hardest of all: therapy used to be about helping those with mental health issues. I find this is less and less the case in my office. More and more, therapy is about people needing to be less alone. Don't get me wrong, I still see plenty of nitty-gritty. But often what keeps people coming back, week after week, is that there is real connection to a living breathing person. A person (me) who will set aside everything to be there.

I am honored to be that person. And it breaks my heart that I am that person.

It is my fervent belief that we need to stop facebooking life and start living it. To tighten our circles of influence but increase our investment in that circle. To dig deeply into the people around us. To express our love through action. To enter into their messy, grieving moments and not leave them alone staring at a screen.

We've never had so many friends, and been so alone. 

Wishing you a full, messy, connected life-


  1. I too am feeling sensitive to this and sad about this. I was with some college girls the other day who received a phone call instead of a text from a boy she had a crush on and you should have heard the implied thoughts about his character, lol. I have been working on being more diligent about this. It is harder then I thought it would be. Thanks for the thoughts and post.

  2. Thoughtful and beautifully wtitten, Krysta


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