Talking about death on social media
As the world’s dependence on social media grows, as does the need to address personal and often difficult situations on social media platforms - one of the most difficult of all being death.
As a society, we are largely still uncomfortable talking about death. If you’ve lost a loved one, or know someone who has, it’s often hard to address this in person - let alone on social media. From how to write a death announcement to creating a digital memorial, we'll walk you through finding the right words to say.
Social Media etiquette after the death of a loved one
Social media etiquette after the death of a loved one depends on the circumstances surrounding their death, and their relationship to you.
If the deceased is close to you and a member of your family, it is completely up to you how you choose to remember them online. This could come in the form of a fitting online tribute, invites to the funeral service or letting family and friends know you’re hosting a personalised memorial after the funeral, and invite them to attend.
If you’ve found out someone close to you, but not related to you, has passed away it is important to respect the wishes of the family before posting anything on social media. If they don’t post anything, you shouldn’t either. You never know, aunts and uncles may not yet have been informed and you wouldn’t want to be the person to announce the news. In this instance a private message to the family could be appropriate, but make them aware they’re under no obligation to reply.
If the family decide to announce the death of a loved one across social media, they’re most likely aware that this will lead to comments, shares and messages of condolence. We’ve put together a list of the right words to say.
What to say on Facebook when someone dies
Announcing a death on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is becoming the norm for lots of people. While this might be the case, it's hard to know exactly what to say in reply to someone's post. As they are all very public platforms, you should take a moment to think about what you’re going to say before you write anything. Messages to family should be short and succinct, expressing your sadness for their loss.
Some of the most common expressions used online are:
“I’m sorry for your loss”
“Thinking of you and your family”
“Sending you all our love”
“You are in our thoughts and prayers”
“He/she will be dearly missed”
“If there is anything I can do to make this easier, please let me know”
If you’re thinking about going into more detail, shy away from sharing this publically and instead choose to private message the family. It could bring them comfort and it will look more personal to the family.
Steer away from using phrases like the below. They might sound comforting but could bring distress to their loved ones:
“You’ll feel better in time”
“They are in a better place now”
“I know how you feel”
“Everyone feels the same”
Likewise, when messaging a bereaved family, try not to talk too much about your own experiences for now. In time it may bring comfort, but it could be too much too soon.
How to announce a death on social media
Announcing a death on social media can be very daunting. No matter who the person was, naturally you'll want to do them justice in what you say. As information travels fast on online platforms, the first thing you should check is that all of the people who need to be told face-to-face have been told. Once everyone knows who should, gather the facts. Find out what family and friends are happy for you to say about the death and how much information about the funeral you should share. Often, wishes regarding flowers, donations or leaving the family to grieve are shared too. If you were close to the person who has died, you might choose to include photos, videos or a little anecdote of a time you both shared.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to talk about the passing of a friend or family member. Announcing a death on social media should be achieved in whichever way that you and their loved ones feel most comfortable with.
Digital legacies: creating a digital memorial
Your digital legacy is anything you leave behind digitally after your death. Almost like a digital blueprint of your life, digital legacies comprise of photos, videos, posts and comments - anything that you left behind on the internet. Your legacy can also be formed by others on your behalf, including after your death.
Creating a digital memorial could be a fitting tribute to someone after they pass, helping to build a digital legacy that they would be proud of. Digital memorials allow friends and family to post memories and wishes, and helps them to grieve in a positive, healing way.
Social media after death is different for everyone
Sharing memories of loved ones on social media may help you grieve, especially if you and the person who has died had friends in common on the platforms you use. Each social media platform has different policies after someone dies about how the deceased person's account can be dealt with. There are also websites which allow you to create a memorial page and allow visitors to give to your chosen charity in their memory.
If you would find it helpful to speak with someone outside your circle of family and friends, Simplicity offers grief help and support through the National Bereavement Service's (NBS) webchat. It is a free online service which connects you to a trained advisor.
The service is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm and you can benefit from it by clicking on the chat box at the bottom of this page.