Writing a message of support on Facebook is different from writing a sympathy note.
Facebook has become a major channel for your friends to share and mourn the death of their loved ones. Unlike obituaries that follow an established format, there are no standards or rules for Facebook death announcements. Friends might write an actual death announcement, a tribute message, or share the obituary of a deceased family member or friend. Or, they may share the news discreetly by adding a photo of their deceased loved one to their status update, or even a subtle replacement of their profile photo to one of them with the deceased.
In a society that is still uncomfortable in discussing death, Facebook has become an outlet for our grief. We not only share the news of a family member or friend that has died, but our beloved pets as well. The messages Facebook friends write have become a source of comfort as the bereaved mourn their loss.
Writing a message of support on Facebook is different from writing a sympathy note. Messages are usually short and are confined to expressing your sadness for the loss. If you knew the deceased and have a memory, you can share that and make your comment more personal.
Here are some guidelines for Facebook condolences:
- Do slow down; take a minute to absorb the news and think before you post.
- Our initial instinct is to comfort, so it’s easy to make spelling mistakes in our haste to write a message.
- Do use word processing software to compose your message if writing a few sentences. Use the spellcheck function to correct errors; then copy and paste your message in the Facebook comment section.
- If you do make a typo, click on the icon in the top right corner of your comment and select “edit post.” Make your corrections and click “done editing.”
- If you are unsure from the posting of what has transpired, avoid writing comments trying to clarify, such as “Did your mom die?”
- If you are unable to make sense of the posts and want clarification, send a private message in Facebook messenger.
Comforting comments to share on Facebook:
- Whatever you choose to say, make it more personal by including the friend’s name.
- If this is someone you are not close to: “Thinking of you and your family,” “I’m so sad for your loss,” or “Thinking of you Karen. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
- For a friend, “Sending much love to each and all of you, Beth,” “Love to you and your family,” “Sending hugs and my deepest condolences,” “You are in my heart and mind this morning. Sending lots of love.”
- When you knew the deceased, “She was beautiful with a strong spirit. She will be missed.”
- If photos are included: “What beautiful memories,” “Such beautiful photos and happy memories,” “I can see where you get your smile. Sending love.”
- Always fitting, “Sending my condolences to you and your family for your loss.”
Facebook comments do not replace sympathy notes. It’s still appropriate to write a handwritten note.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for “Illness & Death,” “Suicide,” “Miscarriage,” “Death of a Child,” “Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby,” “Pet Loss,” “Caregiver Responsibilities,” “Divorce” and “Job Loss.” All titles are in Amazon’s Kindle Store.