Letting Go OnlineSarah Spangenberg

I don’t even know where to start with this one.

My first cousin, a childhood and adolescent best friend, passed away very suddenly this week. She lived in Brooklyn, and I in southern Delaware, and we hadn’t seen each other in a few holidays. Little did I know that the most recent happenstance of holiday celebration would be the last time I’d ever see her again.

I stumbled through the first few days of the week in a shocked stupor, and I found myself on Facebook, for the first time today, at a loss of words. Upon signing on for the first time after I’d received the awful news, I immediately thought:

“I have a deceased person on my friends list. Someone dead. Someone who’s never going to like any of my stupid comments; someone who’s never going to celebrate another birthday, or have their newsfeed inundated with Games of Thrones references again, because there’s NO ONE ON THE OTHER END OF THIS CONNECTION.”

Realizing all of this, I think, was the precipice of sick this whole week. My guts felt like they were tied all up in knots, and all because of Facebook. Facebook, who’s always going to be there to let me know that my cousin’s thirty-third birthday – one that she’ll never celebrate – is coming up. Facebook, who’s keen to remind me via “Circle of Moms” emails that my cousin’s five-year-old daughter got an A+ in finger painting last week. A five-year-old who doesn’t even realize that Mommy’s not coming home ever again. FACEBOOK, who, probably in a few weeks or so, tells me to “catch up” with my deceased cousin, since it’s been awhile that we’ve spoken. Thanks for that, Facebook.

Sometimes, Facebook? I hate you.

I hate that you’ve made us all so connected, even when we’re miles apart in geography and circumstance. I hate that it’s so easy, so comforting, to get lost in your loved ones’ pictures and videos, because it’s like being a real part of their life. I hate the false sense of security that you lull us into in pretending like everything’s roses with your “upcoming events” feed that promises birthdays, anniversaries, and RSVP’s to long-awaited family reunions.

A deceased Facebook friend is like having an open telephone connection to someone who’s sleeping on the other end of the line. Permanently. When does one finally hang up?

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  1. Sorry, but what does this have to do with being a mom? And why is Facebook a “monster” when it’s an automated program enabling you to be closer to those that are still in your life? Shouldn’t you be appreciating the fact that you’re not alone, and try to concentrate on living your life in the way that your friend would approve of and congratulate you for? Enjoy what you have, don’t rant at a program that bears no malicious intent towards you.

  2. I lost my best friend 4 years ago to a drunk driver. She was my number one on my top 8 (yeah I’m talking Myspace) and for a long time I wanted nothing more than to delete her from my list and just be done with that constant reminder that I’d never see her again. But now? Her profile is the only reason I still have a Myspace and the only thing I use it for. It’s a little gross that I look to her profile, frozen in time for comfort but in this viral-age it’s as good as gold, and her comments and our messages and our pictures posted are as important to me as the box of notes I still have from her from highschool, and every picture of us. I even have my very old flip phone stored in a box with a charger and every once and a while I pull it out, turn it on and watch the ridiculous video she sent the Valentines Day before she was killed… Some days I find myself wishing she’d gotten into Facebook before she died, so I would have that too.

  3. I lost my cousin seven months ago and a close friend of mine a month ago. They’re both still on my friends list because I feel it’s the only physical connection I have left with them. While I haven’t had to deal with the birthday reminders yet face book did tell me I needed to connect with my cousin by writing on her wall. Although it hurt, I decided to click and head on to her page anyway. Seeing her page filled with comments by her friends and other family members was hard at first but it also reminded me how amazing she was and how well like she was. I then wrote her telling her how much I missed it and knowing she won’t reply I’d like to think wherever she is she’ll read it. So if memorizing a deceased person’s page is an option I definitely think it’s something that should be done. Because for me personally seeing other people’s comments make me feel less alone in my loss and is a great way to remember someone if you can’t go physically visit their grave.

  4. This happened to me two years ago. a friend of mine passed away at 18. I am so sorry to hear about your cousin. I ended up defriended my friend. it was a hard step, but it was too hard looking at her facebook. I didn’t even know there was a memorialize option.

  5. I am very sorry for you loss. One of my friends who I’ve known since 6th grade passed away on May 31st and his death was actually announced on his FB wall. I honestly didn’t know what to do or what to believe and it’s even worse when people tag him in photos or all of our other friends post how much they miss him. I even hate seeing the “unofficial” 10 year high school reunion FB event that I invited him to, because that’s coming up and I would have seen him again. It’s painful to lose any loved one, and FB does make it worse sometimes.

  6. I lost a friend just this past Thursday. I found out through facebook, for which I’m grateful actually because I’m not particularly close to his family so without it I may never have found out. I thought it was a joke at first, he had just posted on my wall the night before. I’m sorry for your loss, and I’m going to miss my friend, but in my case at least, facebook brought us closer during times when we would have lost touch and now that he’s gone, I’m really grateful for that.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. I know the facebook rage feeling. This happened to me after my dad died, only he had just gotten on Facebook right before and I hadn’t even known about it, so one day I just saw his picture on the right side of my screen saying I should be friends with him. It killed me. But like someone mentioned above, I know people use profiles like that as a way to still feel connected by writing on their walls and all… Being so close to the person makes that feel hollow. I still can’t use Skype for a similar reason.

  8. oh yes I know that feeling. Early this year sth similar happened t o me and that Facebook page was just there as if it was mocking me.

  9. This has happened to me. I lost a friend who was like family to me almost 3 years ago now to cancer. After she was gone it felt like her facebook profile was always staring me in the face. Then I’d see things on my news feed – our mutual friends writing just to say “I miss you” on her wall. I am an emotional and sensitive person under normal circumstances and those instances were just too much for me. One day I couldn’t handle it any longer and I had to remove her from my friends list. I thought it would help, like I was letting go, but it seemed every time it possibly could her profile showed up in my “People You May Know”. Heart wrenching, every single time.

    So… you are definitely not alone, and I am so sorry for your loss.

  10. I’ve experienced the same and for some reason, I felt like deleting my FB account would change things. After my wounds had healed and I’d come to grips with his death, I reopened acct. Just knowing that the lines were open and he wasn’t there made it so much harder for me.
    I think this is similar, but nowhere near the same, of an online acquaintance going *poof* and disappearing, not to be heard of again. It’s quite easy to grow fond of someone quickly when you’re privy to their moment by moment life.

  11. I’m sorry about your cousin. That’s terrible and I don’t think there’s anything I can say that can really comfort you (or more importantly, change anything).
    I had never really thought about those facets of facebook (the events and reminders of birthdays) being a means to reopen fresh wounds.
    Sorry, again.

  12. I’ve always hated this about Facebook — and what makes things worse is that you get reminded of the dead person’s birthday year after year. And what kills me is that if you think this may be hard for a family member it’s impossible for friend who may just know that their friend is dead.

  13. This is painfully honest. I hope it was cathartic for you, girl. So sorry for your loss and that Facebook is a heartless monster.