When someone dies, they leave behind a footprint. In years past you most likely found old photographs, letters, greeting cards, and maybe gifts that were reminders of the deceased. Nowadays the deceased leave behind extensive evidence of their daily lives through emails, text messages, voicemails, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest posts as well as other forms of social media, and the list goes on and on. What happens to all these tangible reminders when someone dies?
Just last month I realized I never delete voicemails on my iPhone so I scrolled through planning to delete. To my surprise I found five voicemails from my friend who recently died. I listened to each one and it was wonderful to hear her voice. But what do I do now? Do I delete them knowing I will never hear her say my name again? Or, do I hang on to them and put off the inevitable of deleting them at a later date?
A friend mentioned how unnerving it is to see a photo of someone she knows has died on her Facebook page under “People you may know.” When does Facebook catch up that someone has died? The same friend wonders about a Facebook page for a friend who is deceased. It makes her sad every time it shows up and she wonders, “If I “unfriend” her will I seem callous?”
Some of our dilemmas are a different variation of those in the past. For example, what did we do with our address book entries when someone died? Did we cross them out? Do we go through our online contacts and delete deceased friends and loved ones? If we don’t delete them and someone from their home number calls, how will we feel when the deceased’s name flashes as an incoming call?
While it’s a tough decision deciding whether to save or shred letters and cards from the deceased, what do we do with emails? Do we fear that deleting them is obliterating memories of the deceased? Should we print out a copy before deleting them or create an online folder to store them? And how long do we store them?
Videos, photos, and letters bring comfort to the bereaved. Before deleting and thereby destroying visual and auditory memories, it would be a caring gesture to offer them to the bereaved.
We live in a world that explodes with innovation. It might be prudent to decide now how to handle our vast web of communications, as it is only going to get more complex as the years pass.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are available in Amazon's Kindle store.
Image via Robbie Miller Kaplan