Visiting The Facebook Page Of A Recently Deceased Person

I had a dream the night before I left for college that one of my good friends died. The weird thing was that I found out on Facebook. I logged in and visited her page for who knows what reason, and there were all these comments wishing her well in the afterlife. I don’t recall how I reacted in the dream, but I remember that when I woke up, it put me in a funk for the rest of the day. Even after I verified a few times that the dream wasn’t real. Even after I packed up and started out with my dad and little brother, navigating the twelve-hour journey to school. But, anyway, I know there’s nothing more boring than hearing about someone else’s dream. And, besides, finding out that you had died was nothing like that.

I remember the first status I saw was a simple “RIP.” Then, a “RIP, Captain.” I thought that this was coincidence and, more specifically, that the latter status was referring to a dog or some pet. But then more and more kept popping up.

The student body president wrote a status that spoke to the impact on the community. Your friends wrote inside jokes. People that didn’t know you sent their thoughts out to your family and loved ones. I didn’t. I didn’t know what to say.

It kind of reminded me of the time when my first grandparent died. I hadn’t really been that close to him. I was young. Sitting in the hard church pew and watching people weep over his body, I was, more than anything, sad that I wasn’t sad. That’s kind of how I felt when I finally found your page and started reading all of the things that people posted on your wall. I was sad, but it was not specifically for you. It was for the people you left behind, the fact that this happens, and the thought that even those of us who are certain of something else after life can still be scared of how we get there.

I saw that your wall was filled with more confessions of love and grief and memories shared. Like flowers piled around a cross on the side of the road. It’s like I am sitting behind your grave, and I can hear everything that everyone says when they visit you and some of them talk to you like you are still alive.

People posted their favorite pictures of you. I realized then that I had seen you around campus maybe once or twice, and I tried to remember what I had thought of you. I couldn’t. I thought that maybe I could get to know you from your profile and the things that people were saying. But, I don’t think that knowing what sports you liked or what music you listened to really helped that much.

I wondered then what someone might be able to tell about me from my profile. I visited my interests page and reconsidered what my favorite quotes and movies might say about me, if they were the only part of me that could still speak. I wondered what my friends and acquaintances would write on my wall. Would my page be filled with the same kinds of thoughts as yours? You sound like the perfect person. I don’t know how it’s possible for anyone to be as good as it sounds like you were. I hope that you were. I hope that I am. Suddenly confronted by the selfishness of my reaction, I forcefully clicked away from my profile to some other page, any other page. I ended up back on yours. I scrolled down to find your last status update. I give up after a while; I guess you didn’t update it that much. The last activity I see of yours is simple, mundane, checking in with a friend. Of course it is.

I wondered how long it would take for your parents to make your profile private. They couldn’t want people loitering around the internet, gawking at their child like I was. Could they? Would they even be able to log in to change anything? Surely someone had to be there to collect the notifications that piled up for every new comment or picture you were tagged in. It must be so strange for them. Like walking into a room of yours that they didn’t know you had or reading your journal. I would walk so carefully around that room, being sure not to change even the slightest thing. Or maybe I would do just that, shifting and re-organizing to make the perfect picture of you.

I still don’t know how you died. I Googled your name, but no news came up. I hope it was peaceful. I hope it was an accident. 33% of deaths in our demographic are from car accidents. I know because I Googled that too. No; I hope it was something more natural and slow, so that people had a chance to get used to the idea. Actually, I don’t know what I hope. There is no good way for someone our age to die. As if there is a good way for anyone to die.

In the coming days, I may return to your page again once or twice. Maybe someone will post the details of your memorial. After a while, I will stop visiting your page. I will think of you every once in a while. I will think of you at the start of the semester when people return and friends re-unite, and your friends will have one less person to see, as if you had gone to study abroad again or something like that. I will think of you when I go home for Christmas, and your family experiences their first holiday without you. I will think of you at graduation, when I am so grateful to finish what you didn’t get to. And after that, who knows when I’ll think of you again. TC mark

image – mikebaird

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  • vee

    this happened to me before! the girl’s facebook profile was taken down soon after but her sister created a facebook memorial page for her. and people did all those things like you mentioned. her sister would write poems for her everyday. and what you said about feeling said not for the one who died but for everyone else they left behind – it’s so true. i felt so bad cos people did all these things and poured out all these feelings like it made any difference. it didn’t. because she had killed herself. :( 

    • Mika

      i feel like i know who you’re talking about, strangely 

  • Customconcern

    “I wondered then what someone might be able to tell about me from my profile.”

    article was really good, then went downhill with the above sentence

    • http://eccentricerrant.wordpress.com/ Alexandrea

      I think it was the naturally (or at least, instinctively) the next step in the thought process he was in. At least he was honest.

  • http://eccentricerrant.wordpress.com/ Alexandrea

    Thoughtful and insightful piece. This has happened to me before, too. And I also thought and did almost exactly what you wrote in there. It was sad news, of course, but also weirdly fascinating.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=825630453 Lauren Doster Magruder

    “I was sad, but it was not specifically for you. It was for the people you left behind, the fact that this happens, and the fact that even those of us who are certain of something else after life can still be scared of how we get there.”
    I love that. It pretty much explains the type of sadness I feel every time someone I don’t know very well dies, or a family member I wasn’t close to passes away. There is an obligation to mourn and I end up more curious.What were they thinking the morning they died while  unknowingly choosing their their last outfit…did they leave dishes in the sink…who has to wash those dishes now? Thank you for summing up all of the thoughts and emotions that run through you head when you think about death.

  • http://twitter.com/hellllnawww annisah

    this is very honest and sincere. i had this feeling a few days ago too, after visiting a profile of an acquaintance who passed away of cancer. 

  • shannon kate photo

    It’s very strange, visiting a facebook page that ‘belongs’ to someone, but is now in some weird limbo because that person is gone and now the people who write there are ‘on the page but not of the page’.

    This article is blunt and still poetic. The kind of thing that sticks with you, like the hard skin of a popcorn kernel on a wisdom tooth, long after the movie has ended.

  • Sarah

    I had a friend pass away recently and about 2 weeks later it was to be his 30th birthday. Seeing his name in the upcoming birthday notifications sidebar on Facebook was heartbreaking.

  • Guest

    A girl from my high school died last week and this was my exact reaction. It’s so strange to try and judge someone based on self-written eulogies from other people we may not know that well.

    A friend of mine who’s kidnapping/murder made national news, her facebook is still constantly being posted on by people who were friends with her. Another friend who killed herself, her best friend knew her facebook password and changes her profile picture occasionally. It’s jarring. Facebook loses a lot of its pull when it starts becoming a graveyard.

  • Sophia

    This has happened to me as well.
    I think Facebook should probably put into effect some sort of policy in which if an account is not logged into in a certain period of time (a year or two, maybe) it’s automatically archived and deleted. Otherwise, in forty years Facebook is going to be mighty bogged down with dead people.

  • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

    A bunch of kids from my HS passed away this year in various ways (gas explosion, cancer, hit and run) but I didn’t know most of them so I didn’t have much an opinion other than “Wow, that’s sad.” but then this other kid died, in Afghanistan, and all these well wishes were pouring out and all that but all I could think about was how that kid was a huge douche and that I didn’t really feel bad or sad about it all that.

    Then I felt kind of like a douche. Just a little.

  • mrae

    What is it with TC lately and mirroring my life? My v. good friend passed away on Friday in a car accident out of the country. I am obsessed with looking her profile, mainly to try and hammer it in my brain that this is real. I oscillate between thinking it beautiful that people have an outlet for their grief and can essentially write letters to someone they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to someone they loved, and thinking that it’s extremely weird and tacky. Personally, I haven’t written on her wall because I  feel too strange doing it. I wonder if it’s harmful in a way because maybe it hinders the process of acceptance and letting go, since it seems like they aren’t really gone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1039140036 Kristin Torres

    A friend of mine died earlier this year and I still visit his Facebook now and then to read what other people have been writing. It comforts me to know people still think about him, and that I’m not the only one who posts on his wall whenever I hear our favorite song.

  • hiya

    I have had two friends die within the past two years. I am so glad their Facebook page is still up. I can still stop by and say hey. I don’t believe in heaven or hell. But I do believe seeing their birthday pop up is wonderful way to be reminded “Hey, I existed in this life alongside you for a while. Remember me?”

  • BB

    I experienced and still am experiencing this, a friend who I was really fond of killed himself earlier this year. I saw a notification for his would-be 21st birthday, I see him in the “awaiting reply” section of events hosted by mutual acquaintances (they invited their whole friends list). He still “likes” my photo, my friend’s photos.He occasionally comes up in the friend’s photos bit at the side.  Each time it creates a sickening pang in my stomach. People still write on his wall asking how he’s doing, I don’t understand it, it unnerves me people chatting like there would be a reply.I haven’t written on his wall, It doesn’t feel right.I guess it’s how different people deal with it. So many people loved him as a friend,I wish he could have known that week,I hope he did at least a wee bit, it makes me so unbearably sad to think how alone and sad he did that night he hanged himself. I found his last status, I’d missed it on my feed a  day or two before.We had lost touch over a busy few months. I wish I’d seen it and called him. So many of us wish we had. So many people have dramatic FML comments too, I feel there is so much crying wolf on facebook, cant always spot who really means it. 

    Sorry, rambling.   I miss him so much.

  • Brit

    This was written so perfectly. It’s moving, honest, and relatable by anyone… I always thought it was ‘weird’ to write on the facebook wall of someone who had died… I’m not a religious person, and even if I was, I wouldn’t think they would be up in heaven checking their news feed… but now I know what people were feeling, and why they did it. 

    My uncle committed suicide in April, just a few weeks shy of his 29th birthday. He was only five years older than me, so we grew up together. We were always very close until the recent years as he became seriously addicted to prescription drugs. He was always a party animal, everybody’s best friend… I always thought he loved his life, and that it was all about having fun for him. He always had a smile on his face and was crushed on by every girl he encountered. As sad as it was, I was honestly expecting his death to come sooner than it should have by an overdose, but never ever thought he would take his own life. He was missing for a week before he was found, and down his wall below all the “rest in peace” posts, are those that my family made asking for information anyone might have had. That is the most painful part of visiting his profile…remembering how we all felt during the time when we know what we feared the most was waiting for us, and yet still trying to have hope. I have really struggled with a lot of different emotions surrounding his death. I had never even known of a person who had committed suicide…it was WEIRD, and so was my grieving process. 

    I find myself posting on his facebook wall fairly often. I can only speak for myself but it has somehow become part of my healing process. My wall posts aren’t really for him, they’re for me. Perhaps it helps us get some kind of relief from any guilt that we might have, or regrets…it’s a way to say the things we wish we had said before they were gone. 

    We have been wondering what happens to his account now. I think family members can contact facebook to get the password if they so choose, but my family hasn’t done that, and I don’t know that anyone ever will. I know I had a few other friends on facebook whose accounts are now managed by their family, as sort of a memorial, for people to remember and reflect on their lives. 

  • x o x o

    This is so eloquent. Im yet to experience this but I can only imagine it will gosomething like the last paragraph. Thank you.

  • http://theredbuttons.wordpress.com thenomadicstory

    Reblogged this on + The Red Buttons +.

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