Wednesday, August 10, 2016

When Facebook Friends Pass On

Last week I learned that a blogging friend, who turned into a Facebook friend, passed away.

Her name was Patricia and we "met" online around 2004, when we were both using AOL Journals as blogs. She lived in Tennessee, had written a couple of romance books, loved dogs and wolves, and was married to Chuck for over 50 years. She had no children.

We spoke one time on the phone.

Chuck passed away in 2014 and Patricia passed away last week. I did not know any of her friends and would not have known she had died if someone hadn't posted something to her page.

I do not know what I am supposed to do with people who are my friends on Facebook when they pass away. At first I left things alone, thinking the family would eventually remove the page, or turn it into a memorial page, as Facebook allows, but that generally hasn't happened.

So there would be reminders of birthdays and anniversaries, just as if the person were still happily living out their life somewhere.

I found it kind of creepy. I wouldn't mind being reminded of the person annually, perhaps on the date of their death, but these public celebrations of personal events felt wrong.

So even though I had friends on Facebook whom I knew in person, and whose funerals I had attended, some time ago I went through and "unfriended" anyone who I knew had passed away.

I "unfriended" my friend Patricia as soon as I learned she had died. I had no other connections with her, and nowhere to send a condolence card.

I felt bad about it but it seemed the thing to do. I daresay no one will do anything with her page, and so far, they haven't.

How do you handle this situation on Facebook? This is different from getting angry at someone and "unfriending" them or blocking them - these people are dead. You don't want to forget them, but if the family isn't going to take away their page or turn it into a memorial page, well, then, what?

Facebook says this:

Report a Deceased Person

How do I report a deceased person or an account that needs to be memorialized?
Memorializing the account:
Memorialized accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorializing an account also helps keep it secure by preventing anyone from logging into it.
If Facebook is made aware that a person has passed away, it's our policy to memorialize the account.
To report a profile to be memorialized, please contact us.
Removing the account:
Verified immediate family members may request the removal of a loved one’s account from Facebook.
They also have ways to set up your account to become a memorialized account if you die, but you have to take steps yourself to make that happen. You need to set up a legacy contact, who is someone who will be responsible for your account if you pass away.
Personally, I would want my page deleted within a month of my death, or as soon as someone could get to it. If my husband wanted to make it a memory page or something, that would be his option. (That goes for this blog, too.)
What do you think? How do you deal with this issue? What do you think should happen to the online accounts of people who die?


  1. My brother in law's page is still on Facebook. He passed away last October, but I am not on very good terms with his wife so I leave it up to her to do something with his account or not. It's her decision. I set it up on Facebook, since my husband is not on Facebook, to have my sister delete my FB account should I pass away. I don't want my own page left up when I am gone, but I am sure others feel differently about it. It takes some family members a couple of years to mourn a family loss, so I guess if it's important for their loved ones page to be left up, then so be it. It's their decision.

  2. It's nice when someone can post something to the account informing people of a passing, but that depends on people either making sure someone else has their login info, or writing the password down somewhere someone will find it after you've passed. I think it's perfectly acceptable to delete the friendship of someone you know is deceased.

  3. After my father passed, I found that his Facebook page was oddly comforting. While I know that he's gone, for me it's a little piece of him that still lives on. I've thought of memorialising it, but decided against it; at least for now. When an account is memorialised you no longer have the ability to send private messages, but public posting can still be done. I send him messages (even though I know he will never see it) as a way to help myself deal with his passing. He and I did not have the best of relationships for the most part, but I still miss him. I guess in my own weird little way it's helping me let him go one bit at a time.

    I don't have anyone that I don't know on a personal level on my friends list, but I think you did what is right for you. I'd probably do the same if a situation like that happened. I do have my legacy set up so the choice is up to that person. Personally, I'd like my page left up for those that still wish to scroll though the times we had while I was here... though I suppose I won't really care once I'm gone.


I enjoy your comments and always appreciate the opportunity to visit the blogs of my readers. I hope you have a great day!