Have you set your legacy contact on Facebook?

If you’re one of the 2 billion users of Facebook, it might be a good time to set your account settings to include a “legacy contact”, basically someone who is able to access your account if you’re no longer around. I learned the hard way that having the login to Muriel’s account doesn’t actually make a difference because when Facebook finds out someone is deceased, they memorialize the account. Once they’ve “memorialized” a person’s account, even if you have the login, you can’t access the account. And since many of us spend time and have so many memories and connections via Facebook, to be locked out from it isn’t something you want to hear when you lose someone you love.

To my surprise when I wrote to Facebook, someone actually responded within a few days… According to Facebook, its policy is to memorialize an account once the account owner has passed away. This helps protect the loved one’s privacy and preserves their account as a place for friends and family to gather and share memories. Once an account is memorialized, even Facebook isn’t able to:

  • Remove the account from its memorialized state
  • Make changes to the Timeline or settings
  • Provide login information
  • Add friends to the account

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So if you have a Facebook account, it’s probably a good idea to select a “legacy contact“. A legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized. We didn’t get a chance to do this and I only found out about Facebook memorializing an account after Muriel passed away – I’m still not sure when/how Facebook did this as it seems someone would have had to report that she had passed away. From this experience, I think it’s a good idea to setup a legacy contact beforehand so that in case of your death this contact can:

  • Write a pinned post for your profile (example: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service).
  • Respond to new friend requests (example: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook)
  • Update your profile picture and cover photo
  • Request the removal of your account
  • Set the option for your legacy contact to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook
  • Note: You must be 19 or older to select a legacy contact.

Fortunately, I downloaded Muriel’s profile while I still was able to access her account, so I have a history of her life on Facebook. I wish I can gain access to make some changes, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to set a legacy contact before I lost access… I hope this experience will help others out there be prepared because it sucks to be shut out of being able to remain “connected” with a loved one after he/she has passed.

Maybe one day Facebook will change it’s policy and allow spouses/significant others/family to be able to access an account even without a legacy contact. Like many things when losing someone we love, in spite of the pain and grief, it’s the people who live on that have to take care of the loved one’s affairs (even online ones).

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Phoebe Rose Rocks Ronald McDonald’s House

Grief is a deeply personal experience and journey. Everyone goes through it differently. It’s not something you get over, but rather something you live with. It’s even more apparent when death comes too quickly. Phoebe Rose Doull-Hoffman was born in 2010. She had been diagnosed with mixed lineage (MLL+) infantile leukemia since she was two months old. This is an aggressive and difficult to treat and cure leukemia with a very poor prognosis – just 20% of babies with high risk disease survive five years. Phoebe passed away in November 2015 and would’ve turned 6 this week.

To honor Phoebe, and as part of the Phoebe Rose Rocks Foundation to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research, Marion (Phoebe’s aunt and my close friend), her family and friends organized a dinner last weekend for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. I felt really honored to be invited to join in this activity. Not only because it’s a special thing to be included in someone’s journey through grief, but it’s also how I’ve been living with my own grief – by doing things that Muriel would find fun and for a good cause.

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For prep day at the Pacific Institute for Culinary Arts (PICA), we met Marion’s husband Scot who works at PICA and was the leader of our group “Team Vancouver”. It was my first time at PICA and I was seriously impressed by the facilities and makes me want to take a class there, especially when Scott revealed the meal we would be serving. My mouth couldn’t (and still can’t) stop watering.

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Here was what was on the menu:

  • Home-made BBQ sauce marinated pulled pork sandwiches topped with fresh coleslaw.
  • For the vegetarians, grilled summer vegetables on a bed of salad in a spinach wrap.
  • Caesar-salad (I made the dressing from scratch, with help from the chef.)
  • 3-bean salad in a lemon-infused vinagarette.
  • 100+ hand-made chocolate cupcakes topped with icing and sprinkles.

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I’d heard of the Ronald McDonald House before but never new it played such an important and critical role for families and children. For over thirty years, Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon (RMH BC) has been providing accommodation for seriously ill children and their families when they must travel to Vancouver for their child’s major treatment. Originally located in a 13-bedroom home in Shaughnessy, the House is now in an amazing 73-bedroom complex, including multiple kitchen facilities, lounge areas for families and children, indoor and outdoor exercise gyms, and a very cool indoor slide, on the grounds of BC Children’s Hospital.

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We were so prepared that the team set up and was ready well before families trickled in for dinner. With a little bit of time to spare, we were given a tour by the friendly volunteers who showed us around and even let us try the slide. The highlight of the night was serving dinner to the families who were staying at the House. It’s a humbling experience to see that a small gesture of cooking for someone can bring relief to many of the moms, dads, siblings, and families who were there for their sons or daughters.

Grieving is different for everyone. And that there good and not-so-good milestones along the way. Doing something like this really helped me with my grief and I wouldn’t hesitate to get back in the kitchen to do it all over again!

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