Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Facebook and Friend Grief

facThey seem to come in waves, don’t they? Sometimes it feels like all your friends are getting married or having babies. Your calendar is filled with shopping, christenings, weddings and showers. And then there are the times when it feels like your friends are all dying.

Facebook has always been a good news/bad news kind of social media site. One day you love it for connecting you with long-lost friends or keeping you up to date on the latest in their lives. Other days you hate it for the annoying humble bragging posts that set your teeth on edge.

So far this summer two friends of mine have died. Both were women I worked with long ago, in two different professions, from two different parts of the country. Both were self-employed dynamos, who were talented and respected by all who had the pleasure to work with them. One I hadn’t seen for years, but we stayed connected, mostly on Facebook. The other I last saw about a year ago.

They used Facebook to keep in touch, particularly over the past year or so as their health challenges mounted. Though both were upfront about their diagnoses, neither talked about dying, preferring to post about normal events. They shared pictures of lunches with friends and family, wished others a happy birthday. Occasionally they’d report about a sudden hospitalization without admitting that it was an indication of their decline.

One was only silent online for about a week before her brother announced her death. Despite knowing her health was failing, it was still a bit of a shock.

The other’s silence was longer; in fact, so unusually long that I checked her page. There I found tributes from friends and family. She was still alive. They posted in the hopes that she would see the declarations of love from people too far away to visit. I posted, too, with that same hope, because not long ago she told me how much I inspired her.

Like I said: two this summer. Hopefully no more, though I have too many friends with challenges right now: COPD, cancer, lupus, MS. The death of actor/playwright Sam Shepard brought to mind one of my healthiest friends. But as we all know, good health can be gone in an instant.

What to do?

Should I be paranoid about my friends? Should I check Facebook constantly for news about them? You know, Facebook is enough of a time drain without that level of anxiety.

For now I’m going to cross my fingers and knock wood and say a prayer that I won’t lose a third friend this summer. When I see them they’re going to get hugs: big hugs, hugs that go on forever. I’ll tell them how I feel about them now: not at their funeral, but now while they can hear it and tell me to stop being silly because they already know how I feel.

Your friends probably know how you feel about them, too. But you know what? Tell them anyway. Because everyone deserves to know that they’re loved.