Death and Facebook, Grief Online

So this morning, for the second time this year, my high school graduating class lost one of our own. She wasn’t a close friend of mine, but she was definetely someone who I loved talking to, always seemed to be smiling or laughing loudly, and had a close group of friends that loved her very much. After learning of her death (or that someone had told someone else that they had heard a girl from our graduating class had been in a car wreck), I decided I should check out the facebook to see if people had said more about the events (to confirm that they were true or not was my primary motivation). I went to her facebook profile and a friend of hers had just posted a message on her wall, stating that today she had been in a car accident and unfortunatly, had not survived. It seems that at this point, very few people knew about the terrible events. About fifteen minutes later, my NewsFeed notified me that a group had been created for the remembrance of the friend we had lost. I instantly joined the group. Approximately twenty minutes later, the group had gone from 3 members to 47 members. I am willing to bet that by the time I finish typing this blog entry, the group will have increased in its member size even more significantly, more posts will have been written on her wall, more images will have been posted showing her with her friends, more information about the car accident itself will have been revealed to the public, and people will have started a unique process of grieving that would not have been possible five years ago.

This “grief on facebook” phenomena seems to be something that many participate in. My guess is that the community of the facebook isn’t really fully realized until something such as a death of a friend occurs. The instant nature of notifications and messages to large amounts of people make the grieving process even more interesting. Individuals who are participating can share their favorite stories of their lost friend, can post images that remind everyone how great that individual was to spend time with, there might be some closure in leaving a message for your lost friends on their facebook wall. I think this would be an interesting space to research…. I know it happens each and every day for many individuals who are members of the facebook community.

Have any of you experienced similiar events on facebook?


  1. Mike Madison

    There was a guy I went to high school with who was diabetic and died suddenly a year or two ago. There was information posted throughout a couple of the Facebook group related to my high school which was nice because “news” and obituary services rarely convey what really happened unless it involved some shoot out (which in Mark’s case, it didn’t.)

    I honestly think that the grieving through social networking phenomenon is an extension of the “shy guy speaking up” phenomenon that we have discussed in class. So many people have so many feelings about death and what it means to them, and as typical Americans people just don’t speak up and let those feelings out. I think the internet provides a safe, non embarrassing way for those people to really let lose and let the feelings out.

    In a way its too bad that more people don’t do this, either vocally or on the web, because I think there would be a lot fewer screwed up people in this country if they would talk through their problems.


  2. laurabrunetti

    Not specifically facebook, but something similar-it was actually a blog that was started by a tight-knit group of friends that started dwindling in activity. One of the friends then passed on and there was a small burst of activity that was mainly a memorial and shared grief site (telling funny stories about the deceased, etc). Now I think activity is pretty steady but has transitioned into a “regular” blog again, though part of the experience of posting on it is remembering I’m sure.

  3. Tyler Pace

    Two years ago a colleague and friend of mine died in a tragic hit and run outside of her sorority. The first notification of the accident came from a series of txt msgs which people continued to forward through their social circles for a couple hours as updates were made available.

    Soon to follow were the Facebook posts, gifts, a deluge of new photos, notes, etc. Also, because we had geographic proximity on our side as IU students a couple of vigils were scheduled through the Facebook event system.

    A couple months after her death, news came out via Facebook that the driver involved in the hit and run had been found and was being extradited to Indiana. This news was disseminated through the memorial groups and then spread out through the usual Facebook channels.

    Almost 2 years later Facebook still has 2 groups dedicated to my friend with over 600 members.

  4. JOhn Priest

    Hi Everyone,I wanted to post because I am doing some research for a possible doctoral thesis related to online grieving. I am a middle school teacher in CT and last year a student of mine died on the last day of school, hours after we all left for the summer. It hit our community very hard. During the hours and days that followed several Facebook pages were started with discussions very similar to those you have described above. What was interesting, was that, as a teacher of the students that were posting, I realized that kids from very different social groups began posting and commenting on each others posts. I couldn’t help but wonder if Facebook was helping these kids connect in a way that, prior to a few years ago, was not possible….at least not this easily. I would be very interested in anyone thoughts about this, particularly those students who have, unfortunately, been in the middle of these events.
    Thank you.

  5. Bob Julius Onggo

    death on facebook or the death of facebook.
    I prefer the second one, since facebook is just
    like the other hypes prior to the dotbomb.

    Bob J Onggo

  6. Supa Dupa Fresh

    Wow. This is totally my topic. I host a 900 member page on Facebook where widowed people (mostly in their 30s and 40s, mostly parents) share their experiences and thoughts. It’s been a great source of insight for many.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and please visit my blog, friend me on FB, and follow me on Twitter if you like.

    Best to you!




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