As my wife recently went to be with the Lord after a year long journey with Signet Ring Cell Cancer, the inexorable machinations of the business of life after losing a loved one marches on. Now is the time for those left behind until our reunion with them to “get one’s house in order”, which entails processing paperwork, changing names on various legal contracts and entities, and yes… updating Social Media.

Now that the business of pre-and-post funeral have passed I had felt it time to change my FaceBook status from Married to Widowed. Unbeknownst to me, as I have obviously not had the need to change my marital status before, I have learned that Facebook has an accommodation for accounts to be “memorialized” when someone dies. You also have the alternative to delete an account, but that can leave a vacuum where loved ones and friends may wish to leave final condolences or reference them in photos they may wish to post on their own timelines and Facebook “memories”.

As a number of friends have lost spouses or loved ones in recent months, I thought I would share this experience with you for your consideration if you find yourself needing to memorialize your loved one’s Facebook account.

Going Widowed

When I attempted to change my status from “Married” to “Widowed” under my Facebook profile, the following dialog popped up:

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I learned that I could not be marked as “Widowed” until my wife’s Facebook account was “memorialized”. Since I have been ministered to greatly by Laura’s and my friends on her account, I decided to memorialize the account as opposed to deleting the account, which is an option that one may take for one reason or another.

Set Up a Legacy Contact

Before memorializing an account, you want to make sure there is a legacy contact. This is a person (usually a spouse or child) who will maintain the account once the user is memorialized. A legacy contact can setup a pinned post (final message) on the timeline, approve friend requests for friends and family who may join Facebook or friend them at a later date, and update the profile picture and cover photo.

The legacy contact cannot remove or change past items on their timeline, read messages they’ve sent to other friends, or remove any of their friends.

Though setting up a legacy contact is not necessary, the account will be locked and frozen except for memories that others can post on the person’s timeline. You can read more about options for FaceBook when a person dies at this link.

To set up a Legacy Contact, go under Settings…Security in the decedent’s account and choose Legacy Contact. Add a FaceBook friend (usually a spouse or child) and they will be sent a message letting them know that they are going to be the legacy contact.

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Get a copy of the FaceBook Data

You can download a person’s entire FaceBook history if you can log into their account, and if you can login to their email account that they have on file with Facebook. If you want to do this you must do it before memorializing the account as you will not be able to login as that person once it is memorialized.

Once you log in as them,

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Under General, click Download a copy of your Facebook data
  3. Log into their email and click on the link Facebook will send to download a ZIP file of their Facebook account.

You can also use a third party app such as digi.me’s SocialSafe to download their data in a much more attractive format, but you will also have to do it before the account is memorialized because it needs access to the login information of the account, which will be disabled when the account is memorialized.

I know in my case, when my wife passed away, Facebook was a wonderful medium to communicate information about funeral arrangements, etc. but it is also going to stand as a wonderful testament to the life she has led and lives she has touched, and it has touched me greatly to see the outpouring of love and support that has come, and continues to come, from online services like Facebook, Caring Bridge, and the like.

I hope in the event you need to consider memorializing a loved one’s Facebook account that this little tutorial many be of service to you. If so, please leave me a comment below and let me know!