Etiquette, please: There’s a right way
to post about death on Facebook

And it’s not a sprint to break the news first
or pre-empt a grieving family

Facebook is the graveyard in this pandemic era. We say this not with levity, but with disheartening sense of irony. You dread checking your Facebook because chances are, you’ll read about the death of a friend, an acquaintance, a friend’s loved one, a celebrity or newsmaker.

Death posts have been coming with such alarming regularity that you no longer need an obituary page these days—Facebook is the obituary page.

However, unlike the newspapers’ obituary page, Facebook hardly has any protocol or etiquette; it all depends on the one posting. In some cases, one’s death could be preempted—or exaggerated. You could be mistaken for dead if someone waxes poetic, for instance, about how much she or he misses you. At the rate people are sounding mournful or nostalgic these days, it’s easy for the object of such overflowing sentiment to be mistaken for dead—especially if the post is long and one just skims through it. I once commented my condolences to an FB friend who wrote a lengthy post about her octogenarian mother and her mother’s memorable life, only to receive a reply: “We just brought her home from the hospital.” I mean, how….

Just last month, there was some rumbling on FB because posts announcing the death of celebrity photographer Raymund Isaac came even before the family or kin could confirm his passing.

This apparently prompted former magazine editor and writer Melanie Cuevas, in an FB post, to remind netizens to observe some etiquette in announcing deaths.

While we could be gripped with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, we still must follow some etiquette; it’s one of the remnants of normalcy in these uncertain times.

So when you post about death in FB, please make sure:

  1. First things first—you’re talking about a human or a dog, a cat, or your pet python who crossed over to the great beyond? Be specific at the onset. Don’t presume that your friends will know that Kiko is your adopted lizard; some would presume he’s your brother, and unfortunately there are those who can’t tell from the photos alone. And there are even more who don’t read the post.

‘I wish people would say what happened when they post a candle or a black ribbon as their profile picture. So we won’t have to guess’

2. Writing an obituary is no sprint. No matter how utterly devastated you are over the loss of a loved one, wait for the official announcement to be made—by the family or any official entity. Be sensitive to the family in grief. When it comes to death, there’s no need to be proactive. You would want your death to be announced after you die, not before, so presume that everybody else feels the same way as you.

3. Don’t give TMI (too much information). Don’t over-share details. When posting the circumstances of death, protect the dignity of the person who passed away, and again, be sensitive to what the surviving kin could be going through. Death due to COVID is information the departed one or the next of kin may or may not want to share, given the stigma it still carries—a sad reality. And you don’t need to specify either that the death was not due to COVID. Again, defer to the discretion of the surviving kin.

4. The person you’re missing or singing paeans to is alive or dead? Again, please specify. In chat groups, I sometimes see comments such as, “She died?” and somebody replies, “No, just being given a mushy tribute.” A tribute is different from a eulogy. If you must do nostalgic mush, please point out if he/she is a breathing soul, or a departed soul.

5. What happened, and to whom? Before you unload a bucket of tears on FB, say what happened. My friend Anna Leah Sarabia has a point: “I wish people would say what happened when they post a candle or a black ribbon as their profile picture. So we won’t have to guess. It feels fake when one has to extend condolences to someone and not know who, or what, passed on.”

If you’re posting, make sure your message is clear. If you’re commenting, make sure you read before you react.

Losing a loved one is painful. In these terrible times, some discretion and thoughtfulness could make it a little less so.

Read more:

So now, etiquette for the vaccinated and the not vaccinated

My last chat with Raymund Isaac: When the storyteller’s story ends

Finally, Budji holds first exhibit: ‘Art is my sense of quiet’

Dear Noy

How Mark ‘Jappy’ Gonzalez continues to disrupt—and why

Bout with COVID shows Dennis Lustico’s best

Pitoy, Teyet: I saw their relationship end

About author


After devoting more than 30 years to daily newspaper editing (as Lifestyle editor) and a decade to magazine publishing (as editorial director and general manager), she now wants to focus on writing—she hopes.

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