When Facebook Friends Die

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Everyone with a Facebook account has “friends”. What’s a friend? It’s a classmate from middle-school; when your American family was stationed in Germany back in the eighties. A “FBF” (Facebook friend) is often a real-life BFF (best friend forever), a close acquaintance, a current or former coworker, sometimes a sworn enemy whose status you’d like to observe; an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, a college roommate, a cousin, a mother, the majority of your highschool graduating class, or even your child.

Then there are the STRANGERS. Those people who, ironically, are not so strange at all. You discover that you enjoy interacting with a new person; a person that have never seen. For some reason, you find them worthy of interaction with you.

And then something happens in the course of daily living: After posting a witty or inspirational or funny or angry or insightful or raunchy or crude or whatever-particular-style-of-posting-you-have-come-to-expect-from-them “status,” the person dies. WTF and OMG. Let that sink in.

If it’s happened to you, then you’re familiar with the shock and bewilderment that can descend upon you as you scroll down the person’s page to read Rest in Peace postings from their acquaintances. Worse; the final declarations of love and the gut wrenching grief expressed by their closest friends and family members. And you follow suit, posting your virtual goodbye to a person who will never reply.

From YouTube to Twitter and Instagram, there are abundant ways to meet and interact with interesting people who stimulate our minds, teach us things, intrigue and attract us, repulse and disgust us, and etc. People who spend hours on social media each day become accustomed to seeing the same faces. But when one of your favorites actually succumbs to illness or injuries and dies, what are you supposed to do?

1. Identify and accept your feelings.
You can grieve for whomever you please, whether you knew them in actuality or online. When popular vlogger Domineque Banks succumbed to lupus on April 9, 2014, hundreds of thousands of people felt the sting of shock and in their own way, grief. It’s natural to grieve after the death of someone you know; whether in real life or online. Give yourself permission to feel shock, grief and loss. Express these emotions to your close friends and loved ones who will understand.

2. Remember the Good Times
If you feel dismayed at the passing of a beloved FBF, take the time to consciously appreciate the things you liked or remembered most about the person. Treasure the videos, photos, posts and comments; screenshot or print them in remembrance of your FBF.

3. GET CLOSURE
If possible, find the person’s obituary, research the cause of death, express your condolences and attend any memorial or funeral services if it’s practical to do so. You may be surprised at what you learn about the person once you’ve heard his or her eulogy or met their family members. And grieving families might appreciate knowing that their loved one was loved by many more people than they ever knew!

4. Evaluate Life and FOCUS on Important Matters

No one expects to die suddenly; a few hours after Instagramming a picture of their lunch. But in some cases, life is short. Death forces us to remember this fact. What can you learn from the death? What will it take for you to seize the day(s)? How much time do YOU have left. Pose these hard questions to yourself and honestly assess your priorities, timeline and goals.

Grief is never typical; each person’s grief is unique. Likewise, we each grieve differently for celebrities, friends and family, and yes–social media acquaintances. When a social media friend dies, there isn’t any oneway to react or respond. Simply listen to and process your emotions, cultivate gratitude for having known of the person, then ascertain the story of what happened and apply the life experience of your social media friend to that of your own life; helping you begin your personal grief process and continue on without your friend. Because life goes on; regardless of how you feel. Live well.

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