DEAR AMY: My dearest friend suddenly passed away from a heart attack. His funeral was yesterday. His younger cousin took pictures of my friend lying in the coffin, and posted them on my friend’s Facebook page. I was upset to see these pictures. I find them disturbing. I choose to remember my friend a different way, and not in a coffin. I would like to ask this cousin (whom I have never met) to take these pictures down, but I’m not sure how to word the request. I don’t want offend or upset anyone. I do not want to look at his Facebook page years from now and see those pictures. I know I can report pictures to Facebook, but feel this should be a last resort. Obviously, I would private message the cousin. What is the general consensus on taking pictures of the deceased in a coffin and posting them on Facebook? How does one politely ask that they be taken down?
DEAR GRIEVING: My deepest sympathies. Losing friends is a heartbreak, and social media can make it harder, especially when people violate known social and ethical norms and then broadcast their violation to the world.
In another era, it was relatively common to take photographs of dead people. In my own family, there are photos of several spectral ancestors, dead to the world, but living on in photos.
Today, however, it is the final violation of someone’s privacy to photograph his body and post the photo for all to see. Facebook has come to serve an important function for the family and friends of the dearly departed, as an individual’s personal FB page transitions to a memorial page, celebrating the person’s life.
Anyone viewing a post has the freedom to respond and react honestly. There is no reason for you to stay quiet about this.
Send this cousin a private message, saying, “I am deeply offended by your choice to post photographs of my dearest friend in his coffin. I consider it a violation of his privacy. It is very upsetting to me, and perhaps others. I think these photos should be removed.”
In the meantime, use Facebook’s “hide” function so that you will not see the photos, and can preserve the memory of your friend the way that you would like.
DEAR AMY: Six years ago, my daughter and son-in-law moved in with me temporarily while they sold their home. All these years later, their kids (my grandkids, whom I love more than life itself) have grown to love the house and neighborhood. The issue now is that I am getting ready to retire. My daughter and son-in-law want me to move out and sell them my house for half its value. They keep pressuring me. If I don’t do this, they say, I will never be able to see my grandkids again. I am willing to help them, but I have four adult children. I know I cannot give into this pressure, but I’m not sure how to handle this situation, since I have never seen behavior like this before. I feel if I don’t do this, I will lose contact with my two grandkids. This would destroy me. Any thoughts on what I should do? I’m in a really bad spot here.
DEAR DESTROYED: Your daughter is using her own children as a way to emotionally blackmail and bully you. One distinct possibility is that no matter what you do, she may still choose to separate you from the children. You need to prepare for this.
Has the family ever paid rent? If not, surely they have saved up enough in six years to rent or purchase another home in the area.
Your passivity has enabled your daughter to dominate and intimidate you. I can’t imagine why you would be willing to continue to live with someone who would behave this way. When you give up your own autonomy, you have nothing left to give to your grandchildren; do you see this?
You have your future to consider, as well as three other grown children, who I’m sure have an opinion regarding the sale of this house. What about your relationship with them?
A professional and impartial counselor may be able to inspire you to buck up instead of buckle.
DEAR READERS: Sometimes people who dispense advice run out of answers. If you’ve ever been curious about the life behind my advice, read my new book, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home” (2017, Hachette).