Grief Book

I logged in to facebook today to check in on Spencer’s birthday wishes, maybe post a photo and just see what was up in general. I don’t follow a million people so I tend to scroll all the way back and see what I missed. I saw the usual things: some pictures of adorable kiddos, pithy remarks, links I didn’t click on and a wall post from one college friend to her best college friend. I’m nosy and clicked through, what I wasn’t expecting to find was a goodbye.

I read it twice. Then again.

I pretended that they had a fight, a bestie break-up. I read the rest of the wall posts and the cliched remarks we make when we don’t know what to say, “you will be missed,” “I’ll always remember your smile,” and then I saw the one that made the worst sink in: “RIP Spencer.” And I couldn’t deny it anymore and I had to face the fact that the happiest person I had ever known in real life died at 37.

I had no idea what happened and no idea how to proceed. No causality was mentioned in any of the facebook posts, which led me, as always, to assume the worst: accident, overdose, suicide. We were no longer close. I walked away from most of my college friends when I moved out of town and couldn’t afford long distance. There wasn’t facebook, we didn’t email. I thought of him fondly when ever I glanced at the tattoo he made me giggle through. After my sister, I think he was one of my first facebook friends, but it didn’t relaunch our friendship, but he was always there, liking things.

I googled, various combinations of his name, his town, accident, checked the local papers and really didn’t know how to go about finding out what happened. I didn’t want to intrude on my friend’s grief. I realized that I had one other friend in common, someone I had known since middle school who went to the same college and I dashed off a note asking if he knew what happened, not for one second thinking that he didn’t already know. My epically graceless note broke the news.

If there isn’t a handbook on handling death on facebook, there should be. It seems to be the norm to “like” grief messages, which kind of creeps me out, I don’t “like” them, I hate that they need to be written at all, but facebook gives no other method of acknowledgement besides the comment. Still no one was posting what had happened.

I eventually did find out, he died of an illness, an illness of varying degrees of fatality for one in our age bracket, but I don’t know the circumstances or the details, nor do I want to find out. His facebook wall is flooded with warm memories as photos and that’s how it should be.

I’m not sure if this death hit me so hard for selfish reasons. My friend named Spencer died on Spencer’s birthday with is also my Dad’s deathday. So the day is emotional. And people in my family nexus tend to die on birthday’s. My husband’s grandfather just died on my birthday last month. I simply wasn’t in the mood for more bad news.

My knee jerk reaction was to want to close my facebook account. I don’t need to know when random acquaintance from high school and college die and have babies and apparently that is mostly what I use facebook for. I would have happily gone on for many years thinking my friend was still walking around and laughing his amazing laugh. I really don’t need more death. Since my husband and I got married 7 years ago, the following people have died: my dad, my mom, my grandmother, my aunt, his grandmother, his grandfather and then his other grandfather. That seems like enough. And that is just the relatives.

I’m tired of people dying and social media just makes it worse. I’m not tremendously affected by celebrity deaths, I think because I don’t know them. I worked in an environment where people died nearly every day. My parents died. Of course, I think it is sad when someone dies, but I don’t think their death is more important than the 5 people who died in car accidents last week just because they made a movie. I tend to keep these thoughts to myself because I am normally in the minority.

The twitter reaction to Amy Winehouse’s death is an example of when social media can be too much for me. First it was the endless retweets of the breaking news of her death. I’ll admit that I use twitter to find out most of my current events, so I appreciated the first 5. Or 20. But when a tweet that has “breaking news” in it gets retweeted 12 hours after the news was released it’s not really breaking in anymore. It’s broken. News to you is not news to all of us. I made a regrettably pithy comment along the lines of “sad, but not surprising” I regretted it within minutes, but didn’t go back and delete it.

Then the backlash started.  How dare people be upset when a drug addict dies? How dare people be upset about a single celebrity when almost 100 people died in Norway the day before? How dare people show feelings on twitter different than someone else’s. And that is when I pretty much started ignoring twitter for the day. I just don’t care about the drama.

As far as I am concerned, people can grieve however they want. But I reserved the right to ignore you, unfollow you or hide you until it is over. But I won’t criticize you. Live tweet a parent’s death from cancer? I’ve seen it, I hid it. Live tweet a miscarriage? Hidden again. Countless #RIPCelebrityName hashtags hidden. You can have all the death on twitter and facebook you want, I’ve had enough in my personal life, I don’t need more online.

**I just can’t edit this. Please forgive the typos. **

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8 Responses to “Grief Book”

  1. Uli says:

    Very strong, very moving essay, Amy. Thanks.


  2. TMae says:

    I lost several friends in a series of unrelated incidents one fateful summer, and have added many family members to the list since then. Death, and the ensuing empty space is hard. And grieving IS an absolutely personal process. Good for you for stepping back in order to stay healthy.

    I’m thinking of you, friend.


    Amy Reply:

    Thanks. The empty space – how hard we must work to not let it consume us.


  3. alana says:

    I’m Sorry anoutthe death if your friend. An on a day that should be full.of joy.
    I stepped away from twitter a few weeks ago for this reason. I was tired of the drama like you said. It became too much. Social media has become too much for me anyway.
    Great post, Amy! xo


  4. alana says:

    I’m Sorry to hear about the death if your friend. And on a day that should be full of joy.
    I stepped away from twitter a few weeks ago for this reason. I was tired of the drama like you said. It became too much. Social media has become too much for me anyway.
    Great post, Amy! xo


    Amy Reply:

    Thanks. I started unfollowing the more dramtic folks and I just block hashtags A LOT sooner. I am over getting upset by something that is a hobby/fun. You just need to remember to Zip It! right away!


  5. Veronica says:

    I had something like this happen and I think about it daily. It was my childhood best friends but anyway this is about you and nothing I can say will help but I know what you mean and it blows but you are in my thoughts. you usually are cu i watch a lot of simpsons and then i wonder if you like the episode i am watching and anyway I meet you in a week and oh i shouldbt be up this late cuz look what im doing to you.



  6. Suzanne says:

    I am sorry for your friend and sorry for the weird coincidence and sorry if anyone gave you a hard time on Twitter about your reactions. Social media is especially dangerous when our emotions are close to the surface and it is HARD not to respond in a knee-jerky way.


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