Former educator Devany LeDrew writes about grief outreach.
Trust me, as a grieving parent I know that you don't actually like that my daughter died. On the contrary, I ask you to consider how your Facebook likes (though they may seem backward) can be a nod of encouragement and acknowledgement in a sea of pain. You can support your friends and family through trauma, crises, and grief through social media.
Why do I grieve through social media?
So many people were following our daughter's brief life via Facebook. It was much less staggering for me to type that she had passed away peacefully in her father's arms via social media than to make those heart-wrenching phone calls repeating over and over again what I had barely grasped myself. She was gone.
It was only the natural progression that I would share pictures of her time with us and later statuses about our survival without her in the same place where I wrote about her being born alive and (unexpectedly) living for several days following her fatal prenatal diagnosis.
Shortly after Violet died many people asked me to call them if I needed anything. It's two years later and I find that what I need most is to speak her name, have it be heard, and know that she is not forgotten. There is almost a physical need to release this pain at times. I look at the phone and wonder who to call to simply say, "I miss her today." I type the words via social media just to see her name in print and release a bit of those pent up emotions. The support that I receive back is a balm for my aching heart.
I also put my grief out there into the world to let fellow bereaved parents know that they aren't alone. If you haven't experienced the loss of a child, I know you don't want to imagine it. Yet, one in four pregnancy ends without a baby to bring home so you will know someone walking this same path in your lifetime. Maybe reading about my grief will prepare you to support them in the future.
What does hitting like do?
Before I was grieving myself, sympathy cards seemed pointless to me. How could a card possibly help someone who had lost a loved one? Now I understand that condolences and comfort carry the bereaved through their darkest days.
When I post about my grief, your like is a silent nod of acknowledgement. I understand that you may have no words. While a heartfelt sentiment is best (even a <3 or typing my daughter's name is comforting), I know that you may be pressed for time or struggling with what to say. Clicking like makes me feel less alone.
In the early days of a crisis or trauma social media can be a resource for friends and family. Statuses can update everyone at once and create a call to action. Websites such as CaringBridge and MealBaby exist to virtually support families in times of heartache. Facebook and other social media sites can get the ball rolling.
As my grief journey has continued, my statuses have changed. I chronicle the questions my living children ask as they grow up without their sister. I still welcome virtual support as we struggle through our lives without Violet.
Silence is Deafening
As bereaved parents we very much notice those who ignore our grief. The contrast is clear if you comment and like my happy statuses about my living children but fail to ever acknowledge my other daughter who is no longer with us.
We will never have a photo of all of our children together. Instead we may post pictures of siblings wearing a shirt in memory of sister and statuses about birthdays celebrated without the guest of honor. We need to remember all of our children in this way. We invite you to remember them with us. A simple way for you to do that is to like our pictures and statuses.
These aren't the happiest images that will fill your feed, but we want to show you our children like any other parent. We aren't dwelling on our loss, we aren't asking for sympathy, we aren't stuck in our grief. We are parenting our children the only way we can now.
If I say I miss my daughter, you can like that. I give you permission. I know that you don't "like" my grief. Instead, you are letting me know that you remember her instead of just scrolling by.
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