Creating Boundaries On Social Media After Loss

To share or not to share on social media?

Posted Jul 05, 2017

Photo by Kristin Meekhof
Source: Photo by Kristin Meekhof

Grief can be a lonely and scary journey. There may be times it may seem natural to want to share your experience online via social media; however, this method can also backfire. And in turn, this stress from social media might impact your healing. For example, your intent might be to keep the memory of your loved one alive in a positive light, but in doing so you discover others do not share your same sentiment. Sound harsh?

While doing research for my book, "A Widow's Guide to Healing," several widows shared that they found unfavorable comments about their spouse within social media platforms. One widow said she shared her husband's professional photograph and his colleagues recognized the picture. Some had the audacity to comment that their company was better off without him.

And yet, social media can be a positive experience as well. For example, someone may share a story about your loved one that you never heard before or you may see a your loved one in a photograph that brings back a positive memory.

Here are five things to keep in mind when using social media after the death of your loved one:

1. Your information is not confidential.  Before sharing your family secrets be very cautious. While you may have taken every safety precaution to set appropriate settings on your account, it is possible for someone you know to take a screenshot of your post and share that with others. It is also possible that someone prints off your post and gives it someone else, including your children.

2. Your friends and family may not agree with your post. You may be inclined to share thoughts and feelings about your loved one or the circumstances of your loved one's death online and assume others share your sentiments, but this might not be true. This can lead to hurt feelings.

3. Your post may garner no reaction. This can be especially true when you are seeking financial funds for a charity in memory of your loved one. While you may assume your friends and family will donate to this cause this might be an inaccurate assumption. Instead of a few dollars, you get nothing. In other words, assuming they saw your post, they may have no interest in providing you with support.

4. Be careful about mixing alcohol and social media. What you write, say or photograph can be used against you in the future. And for those of you who tend to combine alcohol and screen time this can be a problem. You may think it is funny at the time, but after becoming sober and realizing others were offended by your inappropriate remarks it may too late. The damage is done.

5. Before posting or sharing something, ask yourself this question: Would I be red in the face having to explain my words or actions to my child or grandparent or my mentor? When grief is involved emotions tend to be intense, and while you may feel great in venting your feelings about the funeral or in-laws or your employer, it may come back to haunt you. Others may misinterpret your words or take them out of context, and you may find yourself in an emotional snarl.

It is important to note that you should never share your financial information, including where you bank or have financial accounts online with anyone.

Social media can be a helpful platform for learning about grief resources and hearing from others when it comes to their bereavement. However, be cautious in what you share. There can be a negative impact from oversharing or not sharing appropriate content, and in turn this may impact your own well- being.

Kristin A. Meekhof is a licensed master's level social worker, and obtained her M.S.W. from the University of Michigan. She was a recent panelist at the Harvard Medical School's writing conference. She is the co- author of the book "A Widow's Guide to Healing" with cover blurbs from Maria Shriver and Deepak Chorpa, MD. Kristin will be offering a personalized 4 week "Mindful Coaching After Loss" series for anyone who is feeling stuck in their grief journey and longing to find purpose after loss. Registration is now open for a limited time.