How to Experience Grief & Joy Privately on Facebook in 3 Steps


You know that thing where Facebook can be really weird? I have a story about that.

I scrolled through old Facebook messages recently in order to mute and archive them.

I face a deadline this week, and I want to make sure I reach it. A lot rides on it – in my own head, at least – although God probably knows better than I do. (“Gee, thanks, Rach, for the vote of confidence,” God says … probably …)

For reals: God knows what is going to happen with the deadline and whether my effort will come to fruition. He knows whether I will enter a new stage after it passes.

But, I don’t know the outcome yet. And I have a lot of work to do in all areas of life right now. Especially grieving.

In case no one has mentioned this to you or in case you haven’t experienced loss yourself, let me enlighten you: Grief is painful. Getting through it takes hard work. You have to make a lot of conscious choices. There is a sort of who, what, when, where and how process to follow, but it isn’t often linear. Many people do not know grief has five unruly stages but there is a process to follow to help bring healing. It's called self-kindness and self-awareness. And we don't usually get there alone.

This idea of stages resonates with me as a writer and journalist. I understand words are unwieldy. And so are emotions.

Right now, in this stage, you are reading this to find out how to grieve, privately, on social media. Specifically on Facebook, The Big One.

I don't have all the answers. I hope to share three helpful steps today. You will discover more.

To grieve privately on Facebook:

1. Let yourself look at your old Facebook messages. Do it when you have time, not when someone is expecting something from you or when you owe yourself something else. Set aside time when you won’t be interrupted. Minimize distractions. Go through your list of messages.

2. Archive your outdated chats. Go into the “See All” messages mode. There is a scroll bar on the left side of the page. It shows your recent conversations in a list. Next to each name/group of names in the thread, on the right, there is a small black “x.” It appears when you hover over it with the cursor. The “x” is a powerful tool. Pressing the “x” will wave a magic wand over the thread. It doesn’t delete it; it just saves it out of sight. It “archives” the message. You can find it later if you want to keep it.

3. Archive as many as you can handle. I did this for a practical reason the other day – cutting down on notifications – and I found myself blown away by the emotions that welled up. I saw threads from two people – one an uncle and one a mentor – who died within the past three years but have "alive" social profiles. I saw threads from friends who have exited my life for various reasons but are alive in the flesh. I saw TONS of family threads. I saw my best friends’ names pop up as I kept hitting the “x” without pausing between page loads. It was a cathartic experience. I cried. Alone. In my study.

Archiving these chats became a new way to look at my life. I began to see my grief is real. It is there, underneath my difficult-to-achieve functionality. It is not bad or good, it just IS. And in order to deal with it, I have to notice it.

I also noticed I have a lot more friends than I sometimes realize. It’s a big support network.

Hopefully, noticing this will lead to the final stage of grief: acceptance.

Read about the Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross "five stages of grief" model here.

I would love to find out whether you plan to try or already tried this practice of archiving old Facebook chats. If so, what did you learn? Did anything surprise you? Did you rediscover something you already knew? If so, congratulate yourself. Give yourself a hug. You, my friend, are the Holy Grail of personhood. You are Self-Aware.

I look forward to bonding over our shared griefs and joys. Life can knock us down. But because we live on this planet, and we aren't islands, we ought to help each other up. It's the least we can do.

I often blog on mental health issues. Read posts on depression here and anxiety here.

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Alan Blanchard said...

Thanks for sharing this tip on archiving ... great idea!

Rachel E. Watson said...

Thanks for reading. Hope you or someone you know might find it useful. :)