THE BLOG

Why I Changed My Mind About 'Attention Seeking' RIP Facebook Statuses

21/05/2015 17:49 BST | Updated 21/05/2016 10:59 BST

When you see someone post a "RIP" message on Facebook after losing a loved-one, what do you do?

Do you risk looking insensitive and "like" it to show them some support? Do you send them a message to check they're okay? Or do you roll your eyes at yet another RIP message appearing on your feed?

I'm not proud to admit it, but I used to firmly belong in group three.

I often wondered why friends of mine had felt the urge to tell their nan to rest in peace on Facebook.

In my mind, their nan was dead, which meant she wouldn't be able to read anything posted on Facebook. In fact, their nan had probably never even used Facebook when she was alive, which made the whole thing even more ridiculous.

Posting "RIP" on Facebook is just attention seeking, right?

Well yes. But at the same time, no...

My grandad died while I was in my last year of uni. I knew it was coming (he had Parkinson's disease) but that didn't make it any easier to deal with.

I cried at night, I was short-tempered with my housemates, then I cried some more, not just in the days following his death, but for many, many weeks after.

Despite feeling like I was losing control, I put on a brave face when I was in the company of others, even my boyfriend.

My sister, in comparison, told everyone how she was feeling via regular Facebook updates.

At first I was angry at her for speaking about our grandad online. How dare she? He might not have wanted every Tom, Dick and Harry out there to hear about his life!

But I soon began to wonder if my anger towards my sister was actually jealousy.

While I sat in my room, unable to share my pain with the people I was living with, my sister's Facebook friends were sending her messages of support.

It was then I began to realise what a fantastic support network social media can be for people who are grieving.

Eventually I got my shit together, learned to accept my grandad's death and honoured his memory by getting on with my life - which, I know, is exactly what he would have wanted.

But less than a year later, I received the terrible news that a friend from my dance school - who I'd known since I was a kid - had died in a car accident.

Unlike my grandad's death, no one could have predicted this.

Details of the accident were all over the news, but I wasn't thinking straight and once again tried to put on a brave face. This time, it didn't last for long.

I remember getting on the tube during rush hour and being sandwiched between two commuters who had the Evening Standard open on the same page.

Charlotte's beautiful picture was looking back at me - it felt like a horrible dream.

Feeling unable to breath, I got off the tube and got some fresh air. I knew I needed help and found myself logging onto Facebook.

I read dozens of messages sent to Charlotte, both from mutual friends and people I had never met.

No, they didn't make me feel better, but they did make me feel like I wasn't alone.

In the weeks that passed, I found comfort in people sharing stories about Charlotte and even shared a small tribute of my own - something that two years ago, I never would have done.

Writing RIP on Facebook is attention seeking, but in the most literal sense - it's a way of saying "someone I knew and cared about died and I'm not coping very well, so please can you help me?"

So, why am I telling you this now?

Dying Matters Awareness Week aims to get people talking about death and bereavement because, unfortunately, death is a part of life.

In my experience, talking about death really does make bereavement easier - that includes posting statuses about loved-ones you've lost on Facebook.

So the next time you see a RIP message on your feed, don't roll your eyes as I used to.

Instead, think about what you can do to help that person. After all, you never know when you may need the favour returned.