grieving in the digital age

by Kaylah Stroup

I think I want to unfriend my mom on Facebook.

She passed away suddenly around a month ago. One night shortly after it happened my dad handed me her phone to check on something for him. I quickly slipped onto her Facebook app and sent myself a friend request.

For a few years now I’ve been friend-free on Facebook. I found that I wasted too much time on there scrolling through stuff I didn’t care about. Even if it was posted by people I liked, I just didn’t need to spend my precious time scrolling through it multiple times per day. I wanted to delete it all together but alas, you need a personal account to have a business page. Even if I don’t personally like the site, lots of people still use it regularly so it’s a business necessity.

The best option for me was just to delete everyone. No friends, no family, not even my husband. My Facebook feed is only updates from my favorite band, and a local cycling group. But as soon as she died, I wanted my mom as a friend. I wanted to be able to post on her wall and scroll through her photos. What I really wanted was to be able to see her name all the time, to be connected to her in that sense. I hated that I wasn’t her friend.

The past few weeks I’ve scrolled through her feed numerous times. I read our exchanged messages over and over. They date all the way back to 2010. I stop, hovering over every “I love you!” and “<3<3<3” that never actually turned into the heart emoji because she could never remember that she had to put a space between the hearts. I’ve flipped through every single photo of her, including the ones posted of her by others, more times than I can count. I’ve read every single comment on every one of those photos. I even end up lurking her friends trying to figure out who they are. I wonder how well they knew her. Do they miss her too?

At first it was comforting, at least I think it was.

More recently, it feels wrong. It’s become a messed up treasure hunt. Must find some new piece of mom to obsess over. Traces of her are all over social media if I can just find them maybe I’ll be closer to her. I look for her name as someone who liked people’s photos. I regret not watching every single silly video she sent me. Being able to see all these things, our interactions are put under the microscope.

It doesn’t feel good. It feels intrusive and obsessive. For me, seeing her social media presence doesn’t feel like the right way to grieve.

I think I want to unfriend my mom on Facebook… but I’m just not ready to do it yet.

I didn’t / still don’t really have plans to write about grief. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s been a real roller coaster. I like to keep my online presence and the things I share positive and uplifting. I hoped to be able to keep my chin up and look on the bright side but wow, grief is really something else.

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