This week is the anniversary of the day I lost a childhood friend.
At work this past week, I overheard a coworker’s conversation about the passing of a loved one. She expressed that she found it “annoying” that other family members constantly share memories of that person on the day of their death and on their birthday and that she would rather not have the public reminder of the loss.
I felt like I had my head on a swivel – I’M THAT GIRL! I lost my mom 17 years ago, so every birthday, heavenly anniversary, Mother’s Day or holiday I’m sharing some type of memory or feeling I have of her.
As a very rational person, I understand death is hard and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I also realize everyone is different in how they deal with grief, so who is anyone to judge how someone else handles it?
Because social media has the “like” option, I think many people assume when people share a memory of a loss publicly they’re doing it for attention, but I don’t think that’s the case most times. Maybe they just want the memory of their loved one to live on? Maybe they want people to know they haven’t forgotten about their grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, parent, child, friend, or even their childhood pet? Maybe they never saw a grief counselor and this is their therapy? Or maybe they are doing it because they want to talk about their loved one, but they feel they can’t talk to anyone?
For myself, I know I have had some or all of the reasons every time I’ve shared a memory of someone I’ve lost. There is no handbook on how to deal with a loss as profound and permanent as the death of a loved one. Our grief is our own burden to bear and no one should be shamed for dealing with it in their own way, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may be for the people around them.
I hope this post has raised some awareness of the complexities of grief, particularly when its shared on social media. The next time you see someone grieving publicly, I urge you to think a little deeper, and with a little empathy. You never know how much they may be hurting. I urge you to reach out and offer a kind word – its a small gesture, but one that will probably mean the world to them.
Written in honor of Tyler & my mom.
Disclosure: A version of this post originally appeared at erikasisson.com