Should I unfriend my ghosts on social media? I know a lot of dead people and increasingly, I come across their names and faces when I’m clicking about.
It’s always a little jolt. The shape of a face, or even the way letters make up a name can evoke a memory wave of being near them. The memory wave is usually followed by an emotional wave (from the sea of grief) spreading over my heart.
I was introduced to death before the internet. So, I struggle with having easy access to so many vivid and compelling digital artifacts of my dear departed. It’s like a celebration of life that never ends… that I can visit any time.
Leading up to Winter Solstice when I write cards, I see the names and addresses of my ghosts in my address book. I don’t scratch out the dead! Although, in recent years I’ve had to put sticky notes over them so I have room for the living.
Scratching out a name is the analog version of unfollowing or unfriending. And both actions feel like making the person dead all over again. The stakes are higher with unfollowing or unfriending though, because it’s an irreversible action.
The dead don’t accept friend requests!
It’s not like I don’t have relationships with the dead. Every year, leading up to October 31, I bring out my ghost board for display. I burn candles, add offerings and have ghost chats. If anyone has died in the last year, I add their photo.
My ghost board in late October 2022
And some of my ghosts visit all year. Like my maternal Grandmother. She’s inhabited every kitchen I’ve rented or owned since she died 24 years ago. My Dad’s sister hangs out in tomatoes. A friend who died last year always gets on the downtown express bus at the stop near his former apartment. Another friend stays in my garden and if I make her harvest vegetable casserole, she waits in the oven.
One of the ways I cope with loss is to have loving and ongoing relationships with my ghosts. I have learned to begin cultivating a connection shortly after someone dies. And if they’re into it, the relationship evolves into something different than what we had when we were both alive.
Grief is unique for everyone so I’m not trying to identify a truth for anyone but me. I can understand why for other people, the digital comet trail of a deceased loved one could be a source of comfort.
But I think for me it goes against my experience of my ghosts. My ghosts and I have connections that supersede digital realms. I don’t need to run across their names and faces to be reminded of their absence. And I don’t want to scroll through the digital remnants of their life. It’s actually an unwelcome relapse into thinking of them as they lived.
And we’re past that, now.