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The content of this blog relates to on-line digital bereavement and memorial. The photographs and stories are a culmination of ideas gathered together by the author Sandy.  

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All my thoughts are slow and brown.

IMG_0746.jpg



Since I founded Social Embers, I have read and listened to many heartbreaking stories about loss and grief. I have discovered that those who have experienced bereavement often have the ability to show great compassion to others when confronted with death. 

How to set up a Facebook legacy contact.


The value of memories

www.socialembers.org The value of memories-2


This week  I have been looking at a new on-line platform called ‘Loggacy. ‘Loggacy' was launched last week. There are now a number of on-line platforms that you can use to create a diary of your life, to keep as a record, and if desired, share with others, both whilst you are living, and after your death.  …

Survey results

Social Embers conducted a small survey, to try and establish how many on-line accounts a person has. The survey was conducted in the UK in January 2016 via e-mail and Facebook, so it was slightly biased towards a person who used the internet already. …

Digital Autopsy

sunset .jpg

 

The family of an Orthodox Jewish woman, named Serlotta Rotsztein, objected to an invasive autopsy, that was ordered by a London coroner to establish the cause of death of their 86 year old relative in 2014.

The family took out an emergency injunction at the High Court, which stopped the autopsy from going ahead. 

Memorial vandalism

Grave yard vandalism picture


Digital memorials can be as susceptible to vandalism as can traditional memorials such as grave stones.

The picture above is of St John’s Church graveyard in Pemberton which was recently used in a report by Sophie Arnold in Wigan Today. …

Death and Biometric Security

IMG 0429

This week I have been reading about the new generation of banking apps’. The Atom Bank has a licence to operate in the UK and will function purely via a mobile device. The bank will have no branches; clearly many banking customers no longer feel the need to visit a branch and have been comfortable using on-line banking for some time.

Are you prepared for digital death?

Cell phones don't work in heaven

It seems that it is often only after a tragedy, or a near accident that we consider our mortality. Following an shooting accident, Mark Pope has compiled a records book for end of life planning. 

The 'Dying Matters Coalition' recently sent me a copy of Mark’s book ‘Cell phones don’t work in heaven’ which is in a planner format, that encourages the user to record all their last wishes for their estate, dependants, funeral and on-line life.

Secrets

girls-whispering



Ok so can you keep a secret? Where do you keep them? In a secret place of course! Throughout my research into digital bereavement issues, secrets are becoming a large problem for law companies dealing with estates of people who have died.

Thanatos, Death and Social Apps

Thanatos

picture courtesy of Adamsneller photobucket

When my youngest daughter was in year 3 of her primary school, her class studied Greek Mythology. The children were asked to come to school dressed as a Greek God. Most of the girls chose Eros and Aphrodite, and I seem to remember there were a lot of Medusas, as it was fun to put snakes in their hair!  …

All my thoughts are slow and brown.


IMG_0746.jpg


Since I founded Social Embers, I have read and listened to many heartbreaking stories about loss and grief. I have discovered that those who have experienced bereavement often have the ability to show great compassion to others when confronted with death. 

The internet gives us the opportunity to find support, when and if we need it. I was recently speaking to a bereaved widow, who told me that her family were encouraging her to join various groups, however, she said that she just felt like being on her own. I understood her need for privacy, yet also wanted to give her company, so that she did not feel alone. I imagine that her relatives also felt this, hence the advice.

Reading about other people’s experiences of bereavement can sometimes be helpful. Whether we read poetry, prose or follow someone else’s blog, connecting with another person who has written about their feelings, can be very valuable. 

This poem that I discovered on the Poetry Foundation website depicts grief perfectly: 


Sorrow By Edna St Vincent Millay


Sorrow like ceaseless rain

       Beats upon my heart.

People twist and scream in pain, - 

Dawn will find them still again;

This has neither wax nor wane, 

        Neither stop nor start. 


People dress and go to town;

         I sit in my chair.

All my thoughts are slow and brown: 

Standing up or sitting down.

Little matters, or what gown

         Or what shoes I wear.


I recently stumbled across a blog post, that I made a connection with. Dave is writing about how he is coping, day to day, with his life following the death of his wife Lou. Because Lou’s death was a horrible accident, Dave’s life was suddenly shattered. The couple have a young daughter, so the responsiblity of her care became his main proirity, but the repercussions of the shock of Lou’s death have left him devastated and unwell.  Dave's blog is helping others, as he openly shares his private thoughts and feelings. By reading his intimate posts, and recognising familiarity, you can perhaps see that your story is not a unique one. Living with, and managing grief is all consuming, but in realising that others feel the same as you may help.

This form of bereavement support becomes more accessible in a digital society. I did not need to leave my home to read Dave’s blog, which I found extremely inspirational. There are some amazing bereavement support groups around, but if you do not want to go to them, then you might find that reading about another’s experience may give you some comfort.

If you would like to read Dave’s blog, then I have linked it here:

Life as a young widowed father. 

How to set up a Facebook legacy contact.


The value of memories

www.socialembers.org The value of memories-2


This week  I have been looking at a new on-line platform called ‘Loggacy. ‘Loggacy' was launched last week. There are now a number of on-line platforms that you can use to create a diary of your life, to keep as a record, and if desired, share with others, both whilst you are living, and after your death.  'Once I’ve Gone', is another similar platform, both offer the opportunity to appoint a trusted person as a contact, who will be able to access the account after you have died. 

'Memory Huddle, ‘Afternote', ‘Lifetile' have similar features, some offer a basic free service, others have different priced packages. There are also platforms that offer storage of important documents and end of life wishes, such as:  ‘Planned Departure' and 'Angel Alerts'. 

Many people are beginning to have concerns about  the future of our digital accounts, whilst there are just as many of us who have not given it a second thought. The majority use the well known social media sites such as ‘Facebook' and ‘Instagram', and some are considering what will happen to the accounts at the end of a life. Facebook’s legacy contact feature was introduced to the account settings, and most new platforms are addressing the issue of how the data can be accessed after a death.

When I first started writing this blog and founded Social Embers, it was after finding a very small black and white photograph of a relative of mine who had died, and realising it’s importance and value to me. Creating only digital copies of pictures of my personal family life, I realised that my children would not have any thing tangible to keep, as digital files had replaced the tactile photograph. 

Bereaved children are often encouraged to create a memory book, to help them deal with grief.  When I worked in a school, I recall a young girl who’s father had died, carrying her memory book around the school with her. She would take every opportunity to share her book with others, especially to staff. Having the book with her, seemed to help her to feel that her Dad was close by. As time passed she needed the book less and less but it’s importance was significant in her acceptance of his death.

How we choose to keep and store memories of loved friends and family who have died is a personal descision, and technology whilst seeming to offer every solution does not always have all the answers. However, many of these planning tools are well thought out and have many different useful features. The tems and conditions of all the platforms will be different, so it is important to read and understand them.

Social Embers offers advice in aspects of digital legacy planning, and digital bereavement and on-line memorial guidance. 

Survey results

Social Embers conducted a small survey, to try and establish how many on-line accounts a person has. The survey was conducted in the UK in January 2016 via e-mail and Facebook, so it was slightly biased towards a person who used the internet already. However, it has given us a good idea of how many accounts we will need to consider at the end of life. 

Here are the survey results based on 46 completed submissions. 


  1. How many social media accounts do you have?               Total 171       Average 3.74 each


 2.  How many e-mail accounts do you have?                         Total 130        Average 2.8 each


3.   How many on-line shopping accounts do you have?         Total 222        Average 4.8 each


4. How many on-line bank accounts do you have?                  Total 101        Average 2.2 each


5. How many on-line gaming accounts do you have?              Total   10        Average 0.2 each


6. How many on-line music services do you have?                  Total   62        Average 1.3 each


7. How many on-line photography accounts do you have?      Total   30        Average   0.7 each


8. How many on-line visual media accounts do you have?      Total   80        Average 1.7 each 


9. How many other on-line accounts do you have?                  Total 19          Average 0.4 each 


Overall total

On-line accounts currently in use                                             Total 741         Average 16 each

It appears we have an average of 16 accounts each that will all need action at the end of a life, to bring them to a conclusion. Some can be closed with a simple e-mail, but others will need copies of a death  certificate, to be able to close or to change the status of the account. Leaving a list of these accounts for your executor is a start, but appointing a digital executor, is becoming increasingly important. 

Digital Autopsy

sunset .jpg

 

The family of an Orthodox Jewish woman, named Serlotta Rotsztein, objected to an invasive autopsy, that was ordered by a London coroner to establish the cause of death of their 86 year old relative in 2014.

The family took out an emergency injunction at the High Court, which stopped the autopsy from going ahead. 

The family argued that the coroner’s decision contravened the Human Rights Act in relation to freedom of religion.

The family won their case. This landmark ruling protects the religious rights of Jews and Muslims, who’s beliefs command that the dead body should not be cut open. All coroners must now respect religious rights and send bodies for a digital scan instead, if the cause of death needs to be established. 

In the case of Serlotta, a digital autopsy took place at the John Radcliffe Hospital In Oxford, so that her funeral could go ahead. 

A digital autopsy can be requested in the UK when there is no coroner involved. Families can contact iGene Digital Autopsy, however the company will reveiw each individual case, to establish whether the procedeure would be appropriate

Depending on where you live, this service may be provided free of charge, when a post mortem is required, but if not, the cost is presently around £500.

Awareness is being promoted through the Everybody Campaign to highlight the use of digital autopsy in society. 

iGene keep the data indefinitely and ask for the consent of the family to use the information for research and education. iGene have confirmed with us that they do not keep any of this information on-line.


Memorial vandalism

Grave yard vandalism picture


Digital memorials can be as susceptible to vandalism as can traditional memorials such as grave stones.

The picture above is of St John’s Church graveyard in Pemberton which was recently used in a report by Sophie Arnold in Wigan Today. The picture had been uploaded to a public Facebook group in  the area. This type of vandalism happens a lot and  is often comitted by  those who have entered an unlocked area at night. The use of unsecure graveyards for teenage parties is not unusual and the destructive behaviour can cause irreparable damage to fragile headstones and statues. 

On-line and digital memorial can also suffer from vandalism. An episode of BBC crime drama Luther, covered the story of a character who had a digital memorial for his daughter, that was subject to a hate crime, commited by a troll. If you decide to memorialise a loved one on a social network, then this is a risk that you may face. Having said that there are many memorial sites where  this does not happen, as there are many graveyards that are kept locked and secure at night. 

There are ways to keep a digital memorial secure, whilst at the same time being accessible to those who wish to visit and use them. What does happen though as in the case of the vandalised gravestones is that the memorials become neglected. As the years pass after a death this is inevitable as those responsible for creating the memorials are no longer able to look after them. 

The future of memorials then, means that both physical and digital have a place in modern society, but we need to mantain them if they are to last.

 Our graveyards need to be developed to make them become more relative to modern society, such as  Arnos Vale in Bristol UK, which is a fine example. The Victorian Cemetery and conservation park, is being used as a community asset , and whilst it still respects the fact that it is a place of rememberance,  it is able to combine the space for other uses, such as a wedding venue.  

I was talking to an older gentleman yesterday who did not want to use on-line banking, as he said he did not trust the internet, yet he told me that his bank account details had been stolen twice. He apparently feels safer by not using it. I know this fear is felt by many of his generation, but adapting to different ways of does not necessarily need to be feared. 

On-line memorial jpg


Social Embers can advise you  on creating a digital memorial. 







Death and Biometric Security

This week I have been reading about the new generation of banking apps’. The Atom Bank has a licence to operate in the UK and will function purely via a mobile device. The bank will have no branches; clearly many banking customers no longer feel the need to visit a branch and have been comfortable using on-line banking for some time.

 

The Atom Bank will use biometric security to log in to accounts. This may be a step on from the fingerprint recognition that many smart phone users are familiar with. 


So, I was wondering, what will happen when an Atom Bank customer dies? 


Planning your death in the digital generation is now quite a bit more involved than purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan and writing a will. In many circumstances at the end of life, authorising access bank information is dealt with before a death, but what will happen in the case of an accident?  Are undertakers and mortuary staff going to need to give families access to bodies to enable them to use facial recognition to close the bank account or to gain access to funds to pay for funerals? 


You may not know that pacemakers have to be removed from bodies before they are cremated, due to causing explosions in the furnace, will we need to keep fingers and thumbs to prove fingerprint identity of the deceased? 


Some types of biometric security systems monitor the way you move, or the way you type, this could be tricky couldn’t it? 


I don’t have all the answers, but I do like to keep asking the questions. Modern technology is such a large part of our lives, and it needs to become a big part of death also. 

IMG 0429

Are you prepared for digital death?

Cell phones don't work in heaven

It seems that it is often only after a tragedy, or a near accident that we consider our mortality. Following an shooting accident, Mark Pope has compiled a records book for end of life planning. 

The 'Dying Matters Coalition' recently sent me a copy of Mark’s book ‘Cell phones don’t work in heaven’ which is in a planner format, that encourages the user to record all their last wishes for their estate, dependants, funeral and on-line life.

Whilst Social Embers does not recommend storing information such as passwords in a book at home, this information could be extrememly valuable to anyone who is trying to manage your estate after you have died. 

Mark’s book is very thought provoking, and encourages you to think about many aspects of your life, that will need a conclusion following your death. 

The 'Dying Matters Coalition' which is led by the National Council for Palliative Care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland aims to promote awareness about death and dying, and encourage people to talk more openly about it. Social Embers supports these aims by highlighting the issues that many of us encounter with regard to a deceased person's digital life and using a printed resource such as Mark’s book, is certainly a good place to perhaps start a conversation about your Will and end of life wishes with your  family, friends and executors. 

Of course you don’t necessarily need a book to start end of life planning , and if you would like some advice about planning for your on line death,  as part of making a will, or are having to untangle someone elses digital death, please do get in touch with us.

Secrets

girls-whispering



Ok so can you keep a secret? Where do you keep them? In a secret place of course! Throughout my research into digital bereavement issues, secrets are becoming a large problem for law companies dealing with estates of people who have died.

When opening any on-line account, a password is required, and you are advised to keep your password safe and secure, especially where your finances are involved. 

I am aware that many people are very nervous about sharing their personal information on-line, but quite openly fill out paper forms and share their personal information without a second glance!

I have learned by listening to Aleks Krotoski excellent BBC radio 4 programme ‘The Digital Human’ that the impact of keeping a secret can have a profound effect on a person’s life. Those who have to keep secrets for their work, such as those who sign the Official Secrets Act, need to keep their work and family life separated.

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” 

Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

The emotional impact of sharing a secret can be seen in the very popular website postsecret.com where users send their secrets on a post card to the sites developer, as a way of unburdening themselves. 

You will probably have heard these before? 

Your secret is safe with me” 

ssshhh it’s a secret"

and George Orwell wrote in his novel 1984:

 "If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself. You must know all the while that it is there, but until it is needed you must never let it emerge into your consciousness in any shape that can be given a name,” 

This could be a problem for your family and solicitors in the event of your death. You may have written a ‘Last Will and Testament’ that records your intentions for the administration of your estate, but will anyone be able to access your private accounts, or are they so secure that only you know the secret passwords? 

Personal security issues are changing as technology advances, and many of us fear giving away personal information, when the news and media often use headlines such as 'cyber warfare’ and ‘cyber theft’. For many of us these create feelings of insecurity, when using any new technology and this is understandable when we see cyber policies one of the fastest growing areas in insurance in the world. 

Is there any wonder that we feel nervous about keeping our private information safe when we hear high profile news stories, such as the Ashley Madison extra-marital affair website, which revealed that personal information had fallen into the hands of criminals. 

However social media now encourages us to share our lives on-line, and perhaps this helps us to feel less burdened by thinking that we need to keep everything private and secret. 

If we sensibly consider what really needs to be kept secure and what doesn’t we may find that many of our security concerns about personal information may be over burdening us. 

The constant strain of keeping secrets, which may well include your family photographs and memories, may not necessarily have to be secure, the growth of the very popular social media platform Instagram makes that very clear.

So be clear about what needs to be secure and what doesn’t, and if you keep photographs and memories stored in accounts behind secret passwords, bear in mind that your friends and family may not be able to access them once you have died if you don’t leave instructions on how to access them. Wouldn’t it be sad for future generations not to be able to see what you looked like?

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.

Roald Dahl

Thanatos, Death and Social Apps

Thanatos

picture courtesy of Adamsneller photobucket

When my youngest daughter was in year 3 of her primary school, her class studied Greek Mythology. The children were asked to come to school dressed as a Greek God. Most of the girls chose Eros and Aphrodite, and I seem to remember there were a lot of Medusas, as it was fun to put snakes in their hair!  I recall the boys chose Thor, Hades, Heracles and Zeus. It was a great example of creative pedagogy, and the children enjoyed the subject. My daughter in fact loved it, and all credit must go to her teacher, who, contributed to her love for learning, she is now studying Classical Civilisation at A level, and enjoys it equally!

I don't remember anyone dressing up as Thanatos the God of Death! 

This week I came across a word, that I had not encountered before, and I had to google it.

“thanatosensitivity"

I was reading an article in The Hindu magazine published by Zara Khan. Zara's article caught my attention as it was well written and was addressing the subject of digital inheritance. 

Thanatosensitivity, Wikipedia tells me, is derived from ancient Greek Mythological personification of death, and is a term that means, considering the death of the user, when creating an interactive technical product.  As the digital aspects of our lives increase, are developers of new apps and social networks considering what will happen to them when we die? 

When my daughter was in year 3, I did not use any social networks, I had one on-line account, that was for grocery deliveries! She was not active on social media either. Now both of us regularly download and sign up for a new 'app of one sort or another. 

So is it our responsibility to consider what should happen to our digital assets at the end of our lives, or should developers have an obligation to do this for us? We have seen Facebook and Google+ add legacy contact facilities, so they must consider it important. 

Should more developers have a thanotosensitivity clause in their development programmes?


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