A drawing of Ana holding a phone and taking a photo of a cat who is washing itself. The cat says, suprised, oh, hello Ana.


Jottings from Ana Rodrigues

My loss. Their public consumption.

Growing up, I wasn’t close to my extended family. My parents weren’t close to them or were not on speaking terms, so, as a child, I followed their pattern. It probably explains why it took until recently for me to experience grieving while online.

I just flew back from Portugal, having spent the first anniversary of my father’s death with my mum and sister. I don’t know if I am lying to myself but I feel that I’ve accepted some things that panned out at the time.

I started this draft in August 2023, just before I started to struggle a lot mentally, and I really want to talk about what happened online after my dad passed away.

I grew up in a small town, and my dad was popular. He was born and lived in the area all his life and was heavily involved in the community. So, his death was a shock to everyone. The news had already spread by the time I landed in Portugal the following morning. The funeral agency that handled his passing immediately shared it via printed posters on all the local businesses and their own Facebook page. This is what usually happens over there.

I think that because he was catholic, it meant that his vigil would generally be the day immediately after his passing and then a funeral. However, due to the reasons why he passed, my dad’s body was not suitable to be seen by anyone. This isn’t normal there, so people immediately became curious and shamelessly intrigued and inquisitive. His body was cremated, and we didn’t do the traditional vigil. We had a vigil and funeral on the same day, two days after his passing.

After landing and travelling to see my mum, I opened my phone. I decided to share on my Facebook account (which I never use) where and when the vigil and funeral would be if anyone wished to attend. I decided to share a link to the funeral home’s website with the latest information. But as I opened Facebook, I could already see it everywhere. My body felt a shiver as I saw the original post of the funeral home already with dozens of comments, dozens more shares and reactions.

Most comments were sending condolences and expressing their shock at the news. But of course, the nosy people are also online. Comments like “Why can’t we see his body?”, “What did he die of?” gave me a glimpse of what families of crime victims feel like when people speculate online. I couldn’t stop scrolling. I would click on their profile to see if they were Facebook friends with my dad. I wanted to understand their rationale for thinking it was appropriate to ask such things. I remember one comment that said something along the lines of “Oh, I don’t recognise him”, and then someone else replied, “It’s [my mum’s name]’s husband.” while tagging my mum. I wanted to scream. I wanted to teach them manners. But I just froze.

That evening, I was tasked with deleting his social media accounts. His phone was still vibrating from all the group chats he was in and from getting calls. It was strange. I know this isn’t a unique experience, but like I said, I have never dealt with it before.

I entered his Facebook account, downloaded his photos and attempted to delete the account. I don’t remember the details now, but it was extremely difficult to delete his Instagram account. I think I did it right. I haven’t had the guts to check yet. It was a long day, and I went to sleep.

The following day, during his vigil, I went outside the chapel to greet a friend. I had someone come up to me, all cheerful, asking me, unknowing that I was his daughter, who exactly was he. “My father”, I said with an awkward, pleasant tone.

“Oh. He was young,” she replied.

“I know.”

I could hear the whispers of people gossiping over the alleged state of his body. They said the “funeral home” was shocked and had never seen anything like it. I was sore, but I couldn’t make a scene.

The evening after the funeral, I checked his phone. I shouldn’t, but I read the unread messages. He was in a group chat, and I saw someone breaking the news to the whole group. Their reactions, shock, confusion, them wondering about us, them organising a funeral bouquet. Then, a random question about something else (I don’t remember what), and the reply was, “What should we do about his number here? His daughters might be getting all these messages”. They didn’t know what to do. I suppose none of them wanted to remove him from the group, but it was haunting at the time. Someone brought back his last message to the group. There were messages about what they would bring to the funeral, when to meet up, etc.

Then, after the funeral, someone asked about a dinner and drinks they had arranged before this all happened and what the plans were. I had reached the bottom of the group chat. Life carried on for everyone (as it should). I removed him from the group and hoped it allowed them to talk freely and carry on.

While everyone was asleep, I went back to Facebook to check the latest tattle. Then I shared on my own profile a handful of tributes shared on Facebook by the communities he was involved in and employers.

I was angry because he deserved more respect and dignity in this death. And while I am thankful to the hundreds who attended and paid their respects, I am seething over the ones who wanted to be entertained.

While life seemed to have stopped for us, it didn’t for everyone else. Soon after, another tragedy struck someone in the town, and now they were in the spotlight instead. I pushed back my feelings and focused on supporting my mum.

Two weeks later, I needed to find something, so I remembered that I had shared it on my Facebook profile, and since I so rarely post, I would be super quick to find it. It was. But by scrolling through my own profile, I also saw that his employer removed their tribute post.

I guess it didn’t match the aesthetic.

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