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Trigger Warnings

April 8, 2021

How to avoid reminding people inadvertently of their grief.

Long before the internet, I did a newspaper feature article about a support group for women who had suffered miscarriages. In the session I sat in on, one woman complained that for months afterward, she kept getting mail solicitations and phone calls for baby stuff. (This was well before caller ID too.) Others nodded along – the same thing happened to them.

As you might expect, that problem only got worse once the internet came along. We’ve all heard by now about Facebook sending out congratulations on the anniversaries of marriages where one or both partners are long dead. Apparently this is a chronic issue, for both social media and advertising. Targeted messages and ads bombard those who recently – or not so recently – lost children, parents, spouses, even pets, reminding them of their losses.

The problem, of course, is that almost no one knows how to turn off notifications for that kind of thing, and even if they do, who thinks of that while grieving a loss?

All this came to mind when I got this email from a candy manufacturer:

This may be a bit clumsy, but at least it’s sensitive. Queries like this probably are the best way to avoid reminding people inadvertently of their grief – at least, until information-sharing becomes so pervasive that all corners of the internet know about your personal tragedies when they happen.

Which, in my opinion, would be an even greater tragedy.