The author of Death, Dying, and Grief in an Online Universe, Carla Sofka, talked with Dr. Gloria Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference about her research and experience in the Digital Era. It’s aimed at therapists, and Dr. Horsley contributed to the content. The access to an online world has drastically changed our entire lives, including how we grieve and options for support networks. Today, many people share their grief publicly using social media. Dr. Horsley has heard of funeral photos being shared on Instagram, and that shocks some in older generations—however, they can often realize the plus side to sharing on social media.
Teens and kids can show how using social media can help spread information in a gentler way. Sofka recommends knowing your child’s passwords in case something inappropriate is posted. Talk to others who have used social media, and know that it can be a blessing and a curse. You can use it for survivor advocacy, but it can also be a platform for over-sharing. However, there’s that anonymity that can encourage people to post/say things they never would in person.
Storytelling to the Extreme
It’s been 30 years since Dr. Horsley lost her son, and of course the online world wasn’t available then. Today, she’s received many stories from social media and other online connections that are joyful to hear and experience. Some old friends reach out, sharing with her good memories of her son. Being online is a way to find support and to cope, but bear in mind that some platforms are very public.
Misinformation can get spread, and it’s surprising how quickly news can travel. Sofka knows of one instance where a mother made it to the hospital only to find her son had died. The chaplain told her she needed to get in touch with her other children immediately to manage their tweets about the loss.