A story of grief by a man and a boy
When a person from the Facebook generation dies, their friends can do something that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago. They can quickly visit one single page online and be reminded of the lives their loved one lived, recall the memories that they were also a part of, and remember what the deceased achieved in life. I think social media is a beautiful thing that we ought to celebrate.
When you still have access to that person’s account, like I did with Desreen’s, you also notice an outpouring of private love. People send messages they know won’t be read by the intended recipient, but that they feel they need to share. Some even try to add the person as a friend, despite knowing that they are no longer available to click ‘accept’. They simply want to find a way to feel closer to the person that has logged out of life.
Although I knew the password on Desreen’s account, I chose not to pry. I thought it might be confusing or upsetting if people noticed ‘she’ was online. Perhaps their desperate hopes that it was all a bad dream would resurface.
As a ‘close friend’ of hers on Facebook, I also saw her picture on my chat feed every day and, quite frankly, it messed with my head.
So I went online to find out what I could do about it. I knew I didn’t want to delete her account because I want our son to be able to see the person she was for himself in the future; her pictures, interactions, humour, kindness, birthday messages to friends etc. So I found a way to memorialise her account.
Put bluntly, this means three things. The friends she had when she died will be her friends for life on Facebook and will continue to have access to her page. People that were reminded of her by the news of her death or people that want to find out more about what happened won’t. It also means that people who know nothing about what happened won’t be invited to become her friend by a faceless algorithm, which suspects that they might have something in common with her.
Sadly for me it also means that I am no longer married to her on my homepage. It would appear that she will forever be wedded to me, but Facebook’s automated processes have removed my relationship status from my page much sooner than I was prepared to. Just another push towards the marital status box that I suspect no new widow or widower wants to tick.