Social Media and a Parent’s Death

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Last month, I experienced the most heart-breaking moment of my life…my mom died. I was with her from her last conversation to her last breath.

A post on Bluebird Kisses prompted me to finally post about it, since the topic of social media and death has started a debate on ‘sharing’ too much.

The man behind the controversy is Scott Simon, a NPR radio personality, who started tweeting from his mother’s hospital bedside. His tweets shared intimate moments of cradling his mother, holding her hand, her heart rate dropping and when she died. Just reading the few comments below you can see the tug of war between support and criticism.

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During my mother’s last days, I wrestled with using the word “death” in a tweet or status update. I was feeling so many emotions that I felt were insensitive to share. I didn’t want to invite sympathy or distraction, so i stayed away from posting. That being said, I appreciated Simon’s posts.

Simon gave a voice to the experience that I didn’t want to share. I didn’t want to break people’s hearts by telling my story, especially those who have not lost a parent. Simon made me feel connected and calm, because I knew he shared my pain.

In the days following my mother’s death, my family found comfort in memorial Facebook posts friends and family put in their status updates. My mother didn’t want a funeral, and she chose to be cremated, so in a way, online posts served the purpose of a funeral and obituary. It never even occurred to us to place an obit in her hometown newspaper.

We filtered through family photos, and posted them onto her Facebook page for people to download as keepsakes. Having her life in pictures helped me grieve and relatives were grateful to have photos with her tagged to their profile.

In the next few months, we’ll have to cancel her email and Facebook account, but for now, it’s nice to see her face online everyday. It’s like a bit of her is still here. It’s not insulting or disgraceful to share if sharing helps you cope.

So I say, Simon, handle your grief for you, and let others have their opinions for themselves. Something about being able to share this experience makes it real. I’m glad that Simon’s sharing prompted me to post.

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