Announcing a death on Facebook

Nowadays, social networks, especially Facebook, allow us to easily share our small and bigger daily adventures: a brunch or a drink with friends, our family holidays, our last purchase, a career change or even our new pet... But other types of posts have also recently appeared on the network with 2.5 billion active users: death announcements. While this usage may seem disturbing for some, it looks as though it is becoming more and more prevalent. Well, “should we” announce a death on Facebook? And if so, when and how? 

Why use Facebook to announce a passing?

Of course, announcing a death on Facebook offers one major advantage: it quickly reaches many people. While such a post may be considered inappropriate (and is certainly not mandatory), it still allows you:

  • To quickly spread the word to more distant relatives and to later avoid those relatives asking for some news  - ignoring that you recently lost a loved one. If your friends and relatives are aware of your loss, they will certainly be more caring towards you;
  • To quickly receive support from your Facebook community. Indeed, even if everyone copes with grief differently, it is generally comforting to receive support messages from your friends and relatives. Not only will you feel well surrounded, but you will also know who is there for you when you need it the most. You definitely do not have to answer those messages directly if you do not feel like it: the first thing you need to do is to take time for yourself.


When and how to announce a death on Facebook?

Should I announce it straightaway?

Usually, death announcements are published during the week that follows the passing. Nevertheless, if you wish to have your Facebook friends joining you at the funeral, you should inform them soon enough. In any case, before you post anything on social media, you should inform the deceased’s closest relatives via a more direct channel (face to face or on the phone): indeed, learning about the passing on Facebook would otherwise be extremely hard.


How should I announce it?

In general, the relatives choose to post the announcement on their own Facebook profile. By doing so, they can easily receive and react to support messages. As for the post itself, it may contain pictures of the deceased person, words or prayers echoing the deceased and/or relay the official obituary providing information regarding the funeral. According to everyone’s wishes and personality, the post could either include a small sentence or a longer tribute. 


Do not leave out more traditional channels

Of course, whether or not you decide to announce a passing on Facebook, you can still announce it using more traditional and personal means, especially when informing the deceased’s closest relatives. Be it face to face, on the phone, via a text message or a grief card; you are free to choose the option that suits you (and the people that you are trying to reach) most. Writing an obituary, which will then usually be printed by the funeral home, is also a good solution to spread information regarding the funeral. 


How can I offer my sympathy on Facebook? 

While Facebook does not seem to be the platform best suited for sending long messages of condolence, a small sign of sympathy will for sure be appreciated. You may for example leave a short comment under the Facebook announcement to show the deceased’s love ones that you have heard about their loss and that you are thinking of them. Please avoid sharing memories that are too personal (as you do not always know who might be reading your comment and how they might react) or commenting RIP or emojis only – as it gives the impression that you did not even take the time to write a few words (even if nothing prevents you from using an emoji in your comment, for example, a flower). You may then send a more personal message to the deceased’s relative using other means (phone, mail or email, for example).