I Learned About My Grandmother’s Death on Facebook


I learned that my Gramma died on Facebook.

Aw, sad. I know.

Just kidding. It’s fine. This was in August, by the way. I just haven’t been able to write about it until now because death is never easy even though I knew it was coming. In fact, I was her favorite grandchild and had a great relationship with her even though I barely made it back to Chicago. My grandmother liked stuff… a bit of a hoarder… so I bribed my way into her heart and bought her gifts and sent her flowers.

Not tulips, though. She said, “They have no scent and remind me of death.”

(Uh, okay. Now you see where I get it.)

I went to Chicago during the last week of her life. I asked her how she was feeling. She said, “I’m fat.”

Right. Okay. You have one leg and you’re dying of congestive heart failure, but yeah, you’re fat. Huge. In fact, put down the Ensure. Too many calories, fatty.

We talked about politics. I knew the end was near. Hospice was called. It was all very organized and peaceful. When she died, I was in Raleigh. My mom made a few phone calls and went to bed. Totally understandable. It was late and she was exhausted. But nobody called me because I’m an hour ahead.

My siblings thought, “It’s late. We can call Laurie in the morning.”

And that’s fine but I woke up on Saturday morning and saw ‘status updates’ about the passing of my grandmother. A bit unfortunate, yes, but it’s okay. Her death wasn’t a shock. But because of Facebook’s algorithm, the news of my grandmother’s passing was shared on a global scale to people who are only peripherally connected to my family. The way news travels on the internet is shocking and I received digital condolences from people whom I haven’t seen in a decade.

Again, it’s a bit unfortunate but this is how news travels in a digital world. My siblings are great and apologized for not phoning right away. That was nice and I appreciated it. I looked internally at my reaction to this mess and decided to take control of my online footprint. I turned my personal profile into a public profile — but a public profile means that you can’t interact with people on their personal profiles. Complicated. I was compelled to reactivate an old facebook account so I can communicate with my babysitter who only uses email via Facebook.

And then the new invites started rolling in. Along with the questions. (The 21st century is complicated. Thank god I’m not dating.)

So Gramma died and I tinkered with my personal Facebook strategy. Big deal. The world didn’t end. It’s really no big deal except that acquaintances are still asking for an explanation. And I only have one answer.

Get a life, noobs.

I don’t know what else to say. It is awful to learn about a loved one’s death via social media — but stories like mine are increasingly common. I hope you never experience that. And I hope you never have to explain your Facebook strategy to strangers & online acquaintances who take this whole experience a little too seriously.

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