Many have written about sharing their loss on Facebook, but rarely do we get to hear from someone as close to the company as Sheryl Sandberg. She recently opened up to the NY POST http://nypost.com/2015/12/16/sheryl-sandberg-says-serena-williams-helped-her-cope-after-husbands-death/ What I appreciate most about her interview is that she reiterates what I have always believed; although Facebook is incredibly helpful at the time of loss, it it is crucial to have ongoing support.
Sandberg speaks about the fact that she got over 13,000 supportive comments after posting about her husband’s death. This is not at all surprising; we live in a time when our initial reaction to everything is to “post it.” We also get a high off of a simple thing such as our post being “liked” (Sandberg’s post was “liked” over 380,000 times!) When a death occurs, the first thing we crave is love and support- Facebook helps with this.
I spoke to multiple friends who opted to share their loss on Facebook and all said that they welcomed the fact that they were given instant “love.” One friend, who told of her 28 year-old brother’s death, said she appreciated that people who would have otherwise not been comfortable reaching out to her, shared their memories of her brother and support for the family. She also valued how that with one post she was able to not only notify friends and family around the world, but also immediately get their reactions and support. On the other end, a friend in her 70’s told me that although at points she was physically alone grieving her late partner, with each “like” or Facebook comment that popped up, she was reminded that she was not actually left all alone. Everyone made it a point to tell me that they felt the comments that came through Facebook were appreciated not only because they were instant, but also because they believed that had it not been for Facebook, they might have never received all the messages.
Sandberg stresses that those bits of support were exceptionally helpful, but notes that it was the messages she got for the following month from her friends and others, (notably Serena Williams) that really got her through the difficult time. Needless to say, everyone I spoke to had the same reaction. One friend told me, “I did not want to ask for help but the most touching moment of my life was when you were at my door ten minutes after hearing the news… I didn’t realize I how much I needed someone there.” It is so critical that we not forget that like everything else on social media, a message can be fleeting. I beg you, if you truly care about the person who is going through a rough time, please do more than like their post! Send constant supportive messages as Serena Williams did, or dare I say, even physically visit them. Take the person out for coffee, a meal, or a movie- force them to get outside and show you care.
Guru Personal Note: I lost someone before Facebook was popular. Years after my father’s death I was still getting emails and letters from strangers who wanted to share memories they had with my father. I cherish these letters to this day, and would urge people to remember that it is never too late to write a letter. Everyone I spoke with said that the messages they valued most were those that shared memories. We who are grieving are tender forever and always (especially around the holidays) appreciate the support.