I don’t know why I didn’t post about it on Facebook. I started to. Through tears and tissues, I began scrolling through my favorite pictures of her, trying to choose the perfect one. Then I stopped. Delete post? Yes.
It’s not because/that I didn’t love her. She was almost 16 and was my oldest, dearest and sweetest companion. I am in my thirties and have pets, not children. She was one of my three ‘kids’ and yet, no post to Facebook.
My grandfather, a World War 2 Veteran, died in 2012. He got a post. My grandmother who taught me everything I know about baking and being a gracious and patient person died in 2013. She got a post. They both merited changing my profile picture and each got a heartfelt post on social media about how much they meant to me. During the times that I miss them most, I change my profile picture to their smiling faces for a few weeks. My cat, on the other hand, has no memorial Facebook post.
It’s not that I don’t have Facebook-worthy pictures of my cat. I have tons of pictures. Many of those pictures have already been posted to Facebook for no occasion in particular; her being cute, her on the holiday card with me her hanging out with the dogs with the hashtag #bestcatever. But no post to mark her death.
It’s not that part of me doesn’t want to post my pain all over social media and scream from the virtual rooftops that I am beyond devastated and that I miss her every second. That I am second-guessing the decisions I made in the days leading up to her death and desperately want assurances that I did the right thing. That I am awake right now, in the middle of the night writing this because I thought I heard her meowing. That I want nothing more than to have her tucked cozily behind my knees as I drift back to sleep to the sound of her purring.
I want to tell the people of Facebook all of those things. And yet, I don’t want to tell them any of it.
It’s a strange conundrum. Why shouldn’t I post this major life event to Facebook? I spend more of my day than I care to admit perusing Facebook and Instagram, reading about other people’s lives, linking to articles and websites that consume your time once you click on them. I dispense compassion, likes, advice and congratulatory messages on the fly, and most of it is genuine.
I feel like I need to keep this private. I know by writing this, it may end up doing the opposite, but I wanted others to know what I think I’m realizing. Even though social media urges us to share, share, share, I feel selfish about this. And THAT’S OKAY. I need to grieve for the loss of a piece of my heart, and I don’t feel like sharing that loss on Facebook.
I know that I could post a cute picture of her, add some dates and a sad message about what happened and how much I miss her, and I would have instant ‘support.’ Her memorial post would be ‘liked’ and maybe even ‘shared’ over and over. My number of notifications would go off the charts. My Messenger inbox would fill with private messages. Posts of “Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that,” “My thoughts are with you,” or “She’s in a better place” would abound.
Unfortunately, I don’t want to read them.
My immediate family knows what has happened. Some of my more astute FIRL (Friends in Real Life) have picked up on the fact that something is wrong. If they ask, I tell them and I accept their sympathy because I know it is sincere. I know it is a real reaction to some sad news from a close friend.
I know that their reaction is not a random ‘like’ of a cute cat picture with a post that they probably did not even read (because why would you ‘like’ the fact that someone’s cat died?). I know that it is not a canned sympathetic comment made as they scroll through their Facebook feed during a coffee break or while they procrastinate an undesirable task and then move on with their day.
I won’t pretend to be innocent of the same behavior. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel sad for that person as I made a caring comment on the post about their loved one. However, since they are only my Facebook friend because they are a friend of my sister’s that I met twice or a friend of my friend that I met a party, I had never had the opportunity to meet said pet, parent or grandparent and I was probably not qualified to comment on their post at all.
In retrospect, I don’t feel that it was fair for me to respond to some of these types of posts,and maybe it isn’t fair for my Facebook friends to ask for my sympathy, no matter how fleeting it may be.
I want to keep this personal tragedy to myself rather than offering it up for comparison with the latest “Trending Topic” on Facebook. Goodness knows there are far worse things going on in the world right now than my dead cat who lived a relatively long and happy life. Facebook is full of sick children, dead relatives, missing pets, and global tragedies. This event has made me realize that I need to re-evaluate how much of my life I share, and how much of my sympathy and compassion I share on social media.
We are constantly being asked to feel good, angry, guilty or sad about the life events of people we (honestly) barely know, and in some cases, don’t know at all.
A comment here or there may not seem like much, but even the most compassionate and caring person only has so much love to dole out before we become numb to the vast amount of seemingly innocent requests for us to invest in other people’s lives.
Will my attitude about posting my cat’s death to Facebook change before my grieving process has run its course? Maybe. Can I make assurances that my Facebook-fueled (and well conditioned) need to have instant ‘support’ and widespread validation of my feelings won’t take over? No. However, I can say that this experience has made me realize that it is okay for us to keep some things out of the social media hurricane and hold on to them for ourselves while we fully experience them; even if Mr. Zuckerberg and the rest of the social network tell us otherwise.