Grieving on Social Media: Coping With Common Frustrations

General / General : Eleanor Haley

Social media like Instagram, Facebook, Tick Tock, and Twitter have become a significant dimension of many people’s lives. We’re not here to debate whether this is good or bad. Some will say social media is a great connector, while others will complain it’s a scourge on our society, but love or hate it–it isn’t going anywhere.

There are countless ways to use social media, and individual relationships with it vary. Generally speaking, it’s good advice to understand your own relationship with social media. And this being a grief website, we’re going to take things a step further and suggest you consider how you feel about grieving on social media. If grief impacts your day-to-day life, and social media is a part of your daily life, then it stands to reason that the two will intersect.

Of course, there are positive impacts of grieving on social media. For example, you can give and receive support, share your experiences and emotions, or honor and remember. As an organization with several social media communities and who’ve even written about starting your own grief blog, Instagram, or Podcast, we fully acknowledge the benefits.

But, these good things aren’t what this article is about. Instead, we want to discuss some of the more common frustrations related to grieving on social media, and offer a few simple suggestions for dealing with them.

5 Common Frustrations of Grieving on Social Media

1. You’ve noticed that your predominant feeling when scrolling social media is unpleasant.

Have you ever noticed that during or after looking at social media, you experience thoughts and emotions akin to sadness, anger, bitterness, or shame? If the answer is “yes,” it may be a sign that social media is setting you off.

The reasons may vary. Perhaps it’s annoying to see other people’s curated lives when you feel like crap. Maybe the platform’s serving you content that conflicts with your your outlook, mood, or opinions. Or, possibly, other people grieving on social media are posting things about your loved one, their grief, or their life post-loss that bother you. Whatever it is, it would probably be helpful to identify the types of posts that are upsetting you and minimize them.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to hit the unfollow button 

You don’t realize how calming using the “unfollow” button will make you feel until you try. We know some of you might be hesitant to unfollow people because they are your friends or family, which makes sense. And ultimately, you may decide it’s worth tolerating a few annoying posts to see pics of your cousin’s wedding or your old friend’s newborn baby. Like in real life, when you love someone, you take the good with the bad.

However, if you find that following a person’s feed has an overall negative impact on your relationship, unfollowing might be just the thing to save it. Sometimes it’s best to keep a relationship offline, and that’s okay!

2. You’re being over-served grief content by the algorithm. 

A few months ago, I clicked on an image of Blake Lively on Instagram. I’m not sure why; I neither like nor dislike Blake Lively. But to this day, I’m served non-stop Blake Lively content in my search grid. So why am I telling you this? To illustrate how some of these platforms infer your interests and then inundate you with content about it.

Perhaps you’ve seen this play out on Griefstagram. One day, you scrolled through some Instagram pages about grief without thinking about it. Maybe you decided to follow a few based on the type and amount of content you want to see. But now that Instagram has picked up on your interest, you’re seeing non-stop grief content.

Tip: Take stock of what you’re following and explore your options.

As I write this, I’m reading that Instagram will be changing options for how you see your news feed. Platforms are constantly evolving, and so my first tip is to explore the most current options for how you see posts on the platform in question. For example, it may be possible to sort posts so you only see your favorites or those accounts you follow.

Beyond that, if you feel you’re seeing more content on a particular topic than you have the bandwidth for, take a minute to reevaluate the accounts you’re following. If you’ve followed so many accounts that the topic is inescapable, unfollow a few. Perhaps start with any accounts that post more than you like or content you don’t like. 

3. National recognition days can be rough:

Where do some of these days even come from? You wake up one morning thinking it’s just April 10, and then suddenly it’s also National Siblings Day?

You suspect most of your friends didn’t know about the day either, but once one person posted, they had to as well. And it’s not like you’re mad at them because maybe you’d post if you could, but you can’t because your sibling died, and thanks a lot for the reminder Facebook. 

Tip: Stay and post or sign off.

This one is tough because I suspect many people don’t see these days coming, making it an unexpected grief trigger. If you find in the moment that seeing other people’s posts is upsetting, take some space from social media for the day. You may have to scroll through these posts eventually, but you can try and wait until you feel like you’re in a better headspace to do so.

Another option is to post yourself. Though your loved one has died, they are still your parent, child, sibling, or friend. So celebrate the recognition day by posting a picture of them and sharing that you love and remember them on this day and every day. 

grieving on social media

4. You encounter grief triggers on social media

People often use social media as a tool for escape and avoidance. So, for example, if you’re at a party where you feel socially anxious, you might pick up your phone and scroll instead of engaging with the present moment (avoidance). Or, at the end of a highly taxing day, you may decide to take 20 minutes to sit on the couch and mindlessly scroll (escape).

The problem for those who try and use social media as an escape or avoidance from grief is that, depending on what site you visit, you can run into quite a few grief triggers.

We just discussed how national recognition days can catch people off guard. The same can be said for other, more predictable special days like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays–whether it’s seeing the celebrations of others or photographs and posts from past years when your loved one was alive. Then there are the times when a memory or account associated with your loved one will pop up when you least expect it. And the list of examples goes on.

Tip: Face reminders when you feel strong enough. 

There will be times when facing these reminders feels like too much. For example, early on in your grief, first holidays or anniversaries, bad days, or when you’re trying to focus on other things like work. In these moments, it might make sense to avoid reminders by taking a break from social media or logging off after something has upset you.

But as time goes on, and you find ways to cope with difficult reminders, you may choose a different approach. For example, when Facebook surprises you with a memory of your loved one from years ago, you may decide to share it with a caption that says something about your memory of the photo. The hope being that, as you let yourself face these reminders, they become bittersweet and welcome (though they may always cause a pang of sadness).

5. There are too many opinions on social media

When we say “opinion” we mean a few things. First, there are opinions from family and friends, ranging from helpful to annoying, solicited to unsolicited, welcome to unappreciated.

Second, many of the images you see with statements, quotes, infographics, and pithy little sketches about grief would qualify as “opinion” because they are based on personal experience or anecdotal evidence (yes, even those that firmly tell you what to do, say, think, or feel about grief). 

Though there are many benefits to sharing and connecting with other people’s experiences, there are drawbacks to consuming a wide range of unnuanced content about grief. For starters, you may feel influenced by the content in a way that you don’t like.

Maybe you start to feel bad about how you’re handling grief, or you feel like you have to change your coping style. Maybe you feel confused because you notice that one account says you should think about grief one way, and another says the opposite. Or you see accounts saying things about grief that contradict your own experience.

Tip: When in doubt, trust your experience because grief is unique and individual

We post a lot of content on WYG’s social media accounts. We’ll generally stand by what we post, but we also know that we curate content based on our experiences and perspectives. Sometimes we throw in facts, research findings, and concepts–but even these are merely food for thought for grievers. 

There is enormous room for people to see and experience grief and life after loss from different perspectives. So, when in doubt, trust yourself and your experience before a social media account. Learn from other perspectives, take what works for you, but stop short of letting a post make you feel bad, wrong, or ashamed. And again, if someone’s perspective about grief is getting under your skin, don’t be afraid to unfollow.  

If you’ve experienced a frustration we didn’t mention, share it below. And if you have a suggestion for coping with the frustration, include that too.

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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:

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3 Comments on "Grieving on Social Media: Coping With Common Frustrations"

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  1. Stephen  March 20, 2022 at 1:26 pm Reply

    I got lucky in 2020 on twitter anyway, as far a kindness that many followers showed me when my wife died. I have no clue about others but I know I vented, or expressed my real live pain. I was over whelmed by the kindness and many reached out with actual phone calls. many I am still in contact with. and a few that seem real “like” friendships, or as real as a long distance phone call can be.

    That said, I deleted account after a while, due to the 2020 election. just didn’t need politics on top my grief. that actually turned out to be a mistake, as I did not remember all those, I was not in phone contact with user names, so I lost them, when I rejoined in 2022.

    It seems so few men express their grief (on SM or the web), and I guess not that many were 15 years junior to their wives like me.

    I find myself get frustrated with the women heavy grief things, as it seems most of the time women out live the men..i get it..but its frustrating.

    thanks for listening.

  2. Mary  January 24, 2022 at 4:59 am Reply

    Bonnie, Maybe solitude is still what need to cope. Be kind to yourself. If staying in your room & not seeing people feels like the right thing for you to be doing, avoid judging yourself & keep doing it. If staying in your room & not seeing people feels wrong to you, trust your gut & seek more help. Take care, Bonnie, & know that as time goes by, it gets better/easier. At least I’ve been told that by a few people who have experienced terrible losses. My best to you- Mary

  3. Bonnie  January 17, 2022 at 5:16 pm Reply

    My husband passed 9 months ago. I stay in my room not wanting to see anyone.

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