Remembering Loved Ones on Facebook: the latest changes

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa Williams

When it comes to death and grief, there is a lot Facebook has gotten wrong over the years. They haven't always made it easy to make pages memorial pages after a death. "Highlights' of the last year that involved posts about the death of a loved one are moments that have prompted apologies from Facebook about their insensitivity.

The problem, of course, is that Facebook is not a person, but an algorithm. It is an algorithm that can't tell the reason a post from last year had so many likes and comments was because you were sharing news of a loss. It is an algorithm that doesn't realize when someone has died, despite all the sympathy comments of remembrance on their profile.  We aren't here to tell you that Facebook has finally fixed all the problems and made things right. But we are here to let you know that last week they made some major changes to how you can honor and memorialize people on Facebook that we thought you might want to know about. They even make a point to say that they know they still have work to do, but it's a start. So they big question: what do you need to know?

Facebook created a 'Tribute Section'

When someone dies, Facebook has long had a feature where their profile could be memorialized. 30 million people a month view these memorialized profiles! Facebook has now added a new tab to these profiles that they are calling the 'tribute' tab. It is "a separate tab on memorialized profiles where friends and family can share posts — all while preserving the original timeline of their loved one. This lets people see the types of posts that are most helpful to them as they grieve and remember their loved ones". What they seem to be going for is a way to meet two different grief-needs people have - keeping someone's page the way it was when they were living, while also created a space for friends and family to post and comment (and to read the comments and posts others have shared). 

Changes to the Legacy Contact

Back in 2015, Facebook gave people the ability to choose a 'legacy contact'. That is the person you trust enough to take responsibility for your Facebook profile after your death. If you haven't set your own legacy contact yet, you can learn how to set your legacy contact here. If you are the legacy contact for the profile of someone who passes away, there is a change you were feeling frustrated by the limitations to your power. Facebook heard your complaints loud and clear and they have given you more ability to change tags, edit who can see posts, and serve as a moderator for the new 'tribute section'. It remains true that minor's still can't select a legacy contact, but there is now a new policy in place now that allows parents to request to become the legacy contact for their deceased child's page. (we aren't going to waste time questioning why that wasn't already a policy, and rather just give two cheers that it is now).

When a Page Isn't Memorialized

Facebook gets it that people aren't always ready to memorialize a loved one's profile right away, for all sorts for reasons from logistical to emotional. When a page isn't memorialized, we quickly remember that Facebook doesn't actually know everything. The really helpful features that exist before a page is memorialized, like birthday reminders, can become painful triggers. Facebook knows this is an issue and they are working on it, they promise.  They assure all of use that they are going to continue to better "use AI to help keep it from showing up in places that might cause distress, like recommending that person be invited to events or sending a birthday reminder to their friends. We’re working to get better and faster at this". All we can say is fingers crossed! Social media and grief is an endlessly complex topic, with lots of good and plenty of complicated. We do our best to keep you in the know about changes like these, so subscribe to get all our updates right to your email.

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18 Comments on "Remembering Loved Ones on Facebook: the latest changes"

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  1. Terri Rafter  June 17, 2020 at 11:34 am Reply

    My 38 year old daughter died suddenly of an opioid overdose three months ago. No warning signs, no red flags, just gone. She and her younger brother were best friends their entire lives, but a couple of weeks or so before she died they had a minor falling out. In a fit of pique, she unfriended him on FB. They eventually made up – they always made up after an argument – but she never got a chance to ‘re-friend’ him again. Two days later she died. Unfortunately her brother was also her FB legacy contact. The fact that they were not technically FB friends on the day she died means that he is no longer her legacy contact, thus we have no way of accessing her account. We do not want it memorialized, at least not yet. What we want is to be able to go in and replace the cover & profile pics she’d just added, which show her with the person who inadvertently supplied the drugs that killed her. You can’t imagine the horror we feel every time we go to her page or see her profile pic pop up in memories and comments, and it’s a photo of her with this person. In addition there are most likely photos and videos of our family (including the seven-year-old son she left behind) that we would dearly love to add to our personal photo collections. I haven’t even tried to contact Facebook about this. I already know what they’re going to say. It’s just beyond frustrating, and it adds an extra layer of heartache on top of an already devastating time for all of us who loved her.

    • Dayna Blanar  June 26, 2022 at 8:36 pm Reply

      I’m currently dealing with a very simular situation. My son passed 31 May 2022 and someone memorialized his page and I am completely blocked from his tribute page. Did you get help resolving it for your family?

      • Litsa  June 27, 2022 at 6:59 am

        Are you his legal next of kin? If so you can contact Facebook.

  2. Michelle Homburg  May 15, 2020 at 5:54 pm Reply

    My name is Michelle Homburg, CaitlinKelly was my only child, I mistakenly log out of Facebook in 2013 , when she passed, and haven’t been able to contact anyone on retrieving her page. Her father may have Rob Kelly thank you

  3. Tahmina Akther  February 15, 2020 at 1:38 pm Reply

    MY father died in 5 january2020.I am his younger daughter.His account was automatically memorialized. I m shocked.He was82 years old.Don’t know about legacy contact.what should i cam do now.

  4. Carmen Carter-Faughtenbery  October 26, 2019 at 11:06 am Reply

    when my husband died, his phone was taken by his sister, who went into his account and changed his email, then she changed his legacy contact to herself, then she memorialized his page. She left his status married bu removed my name. Now, she deletes or limits my posts. When will Facebook honor the FACT that a person’s next of kin per their marriage and the dead person’s death certificate has legal rights to their social media and should be able to change the legacy contact or delete the page if they want to. Trying to discuss this with the outsourced foreign country Facebook workers is pointless. They don’t understand US laws. If I could find an attorney in California to help me with this, I’d hire one. I searched for one, but so far haven’t had any luck . I’m not ” one of a kind”, I’ve read other stories in different blogs and Facebook communities online and this is not really unusual.

  5. Tammy  June 9, 2019 at 4:18 am Reply


  6. Allisa Whitt  April 18, 2019 at 5:04 pm Reply

    My daughter’s FB page was automatically put into memorial status and I was not asked or nothing it was just changed. I had my daughter’s password, she had given me permission to keep up with it and I found that that was very rude for Facebook to put it in memorial status without my permission. I wish that there was a legacy contact back then because she would have had me for it as I am her mother. There were many of her friends that didn’t even know that she was sick and later wanted to be added to her FB page and couldn’t be. I was so very hurt that they did this.

    • S W  May 8, 2019 at 12:17 am Reply

      My boyfriends page was memorialized, and I can I t assume someone contacted Facebook, but not sure who. It was not his family. I had access to his Facebook, requested it to be unmemoralized and permission to regain access, I sent them a long letter, pictures of our shared mail, his drivers license, etc. and they replied with some generic message. I grieve my boyfriend everyday,, I have not fully accepted what happened, and I still talk about him in present tense at times. Facebook has no right to take it upon themselves to let us know when we should accept that someone’s gone. What they did makes it seem like they think they have the right. We were not married on paper, but were married in every other way. They had no right to take away my access, no right to decide to memorialize his page because som friend(I’m assuming) decided to take it upon themselves to notify them.

  7. Barbara Kim  April 16, 2019 at 9:54 am Reply

    My dearest Bill left me Nov 20 2018. 33 years of beautiful love. he was my everything as I was his.. I hurt so much. so alone. My god, I feel so so sad. What will become of me. I miss him, nothing anyone can say helps. I work everyday. thank god. come home to my sweet dog Mary who is 14 years old.. and to bed. I feel people think I should be over this, I feel people are giving up on me..

    • N. Applegate  April 18, 2019 at 8:26 am Reply

      My husband Joe died suddenly on December 4; we had been married 27 years, together 29. We did everything together. While many couples sacrifice time together in order to further their careers, we forewent career advancements to have more time with each other. We also didn’t have children–we didn’t want them. All we wanted was each other. Now that he’s gone, I work, try to spend time with people (even though I don’t want to), and come home to cats who are grieving just like I am. There really doesn’t seem to be an exit or an “other side” to this grief. I know it will never end, but will it ever ease up? People say there are good days and bad days, but sometimes it feels like there are only bad days and worse days. Everybody tells you that no two people experience grief the same way, but I feel as if you and I may be experiencing something similar. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Shaun  May 14, 2019 at 3:29 pm Reply

      I’m not giving up on you!! Stay strong! Remember the good times and trust me there are good times to come.
      I’ve had two deaths in 9 months and another to come very soon.
      Wishing you well

  8. Joanne  April 15, 2019 at 8:47 pm Reply

    My husband died before he could add me as a legacy contact. Ironically, he was my legacy contact.
    There should be a way for a spouse to automatically be the legacy contact even if they weren’t officially added yet by their deceased husband or wife. ?

    • Nancy  April 17, 2019 at 5:50 am Reply

      My boyfriend’s page was automatically changed to a memorial page. I thought that was pretty terrible. I had no idea there was any legacy contact until after he died. I tried to go in and put myself in but it was too late. I would have liked to be able to administer it myself.

  9. Denise Shrlton  April 15, 2019 at 5:49 pm Reply

    My son was a minor when he opened his fb account. They started the legacy in 2015, 5 yrs after he died. I cannot see his fb page. I cannot post or read posts. Someone from fb memorialized his account even after I said I didn’t want it memorialized. They told me someone has to ask for it to be memorialized. Then the guy I was “ chatting “ with said I’m just going to do it.
    I saw a UTube video from a father whose daughter had died. He was begging for access to his daughters account. He got it.
    But I have not been able to. When you lose a child there will be no new memories, so you only have the old ones. I would love to see his comments to friends and family. It’s like when someone gives you a photo of your child that you haven’t seen before. It’s a priceless gift.
    But I can’t get a hold of anyone to talk to or ask about this. I even sent a message to Mr. Zucherman.
    It’s so horrible?

  10. Carol Bartlett  April 15, 2019 at 2:06 pm Reply

    My fiancé’s page was taken down and I’m not very happy about it

  11. Lynn  April 15, 2019 at 1:48 pm Reply

    Same thing happened to my son’s facebook page – -” family” is no longer able to see new memorial posts, so I have to ask my daughter’s boyfriend to go on his page to see what friends and family have written on my son’s facebook.
    Also, no one in this family asked that my son’s page be “Remembering”, so how come it’s there?

  12. Kasey Coff  April 15, 2019 at 12:22 pm Reply

    Any way to get in touch with the people behind FB to try to get them to correct a major mistake they made with my late husband’s Facebook page? When they took it upon themselves to “lock” it as a so-called memorial, when I specifically asked them not to?

    Sensitivity my eye…

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