What to do when a member of your community dies?


(Tobias Eigen) #1

A member of my community has died and another member posted a moving tribute to him in a new discussion topic. People have been responding and giving condolences. It occurs to me that as community manager I should at the very least update the profile of the deceased member, perhaps with a brief tribute message and linking to the tribute topic. Is there anything else you’d recommend?

Thanks! :sunflower:


(Sarah Hawk) #2

I’ve been in this situation too.

As well as that discussion, we created a badge in Dan’s honour and awarded it to someone deserving each year (the criteria was technical – it’s a tech community). That felt like a fitting tribute and gave the community some closure.

Note: Since migrating off vB, they no longer have that same badge system so you won’t find it.

@Kathy has also been in this situation and will be able to add value to this discussion.


(Tobias Eigen) #3

Thanks, Sarah! That is helpful. Really like the idea of a badge. We have an annual award in the name of another hero of ours who passed away. Doing a badge or award is a larger decision though.

I see there that Dan has “In memoriam” in his profile and a link to his website (sadly no longer active?) which makes some sense. I was thinking of adding a bit more info in his profile about the person and a link to the tribute topic.


(Mark Williams) #4

I’ve had this happen 3 times. Two times a loved one (wife, son) found the login and posted about it, and there was a great outpouring of love in multiple threads. We posted an announcement for those two and pointed to the main thread, then after a week, took it down, packaged in a nice pdf and mailed it to the loved one. We didn’t do the badge thing, I think mostly because I didn’t think of it, but if I had, I don’t think we would have. We had a bias toward “now” in our community management style so doing a badge probably would have felt out of place, especially after a year or so.

I wish I could find the thread on one of them, it was one of the funniest and heartfelt goodbye posts by a son that I think I’ve ever read. Included the phrase “I will always picture my father in a thong on the beach…”

The third one was a personal email from someone who had been active but had stopped because they were sick. I shared it with people who knew the user, but didn’t do anything special in the forums.

Bottom line: Allowing the grief to flow is healthy. Consider if you need any long term memorial - only you and your community can decide that.


(ForumSentinel) #5

A year ago, one of the members who I’d recently made a moderator passed away quietly a couple months into the gig. He had a serious disease but never let anyone know, he just kept a cool demeanor not wanting to burden or worry anyone. One of the users put together a memorial thread for him which we have kept stuck to this day, a few made one year anniversary posts in there. The thread was a helpful way for them to share good memories and grieve.


(Tobias Eigen) #6

Thanks all! Your replies have been helpful. Esp this:

I went ahead and contacted the person who wrote the tribute post and asked him to also write a tribute text to put up on the profile page of our deceased member. He sent me a very nice text which I put in, with a link to the tribute topic. I also wrote a reply to the tribute topic explaining what I did and that we’ll keep the post open for anyone who wants to add stories or tributes later. :deciduous_tree:


(Gear Buzz) #7

We have a RIP status and a “those who have fallen” area.

We had a great outpouring of kind thoughts for a recent veteran member and their relations joined the thread in appreciation. It was a great tribute to a really significant, long term, helpful contributor.

As admins of a special interest equipment forum we have several times assisted widows with advice on the best route to selling off assets of a deceased community member. We feel they need protecting against greedy opportunists who might try to take advantage.


(Sarah Hawk) #8

I stumbled over this post while doing some admin: Deaths of Members


(MHCommMgr) #9

This happened to us recently and we were actually able to attend the family’s memorial for this man, who was a huge contributor to our site. Our entire company signed a card for the family, and we are doing some other volunteer related work to honor him. His sister was really touched that we took the time to show up. I gave her our business card to contact us about the threads she could read about her brother, but I love the idea of a PDF collecting them all. I wish we had thought of that. We sent out an email with his story to all our ambassadors (as he was one) and I printed that out for her and included it in the card.

We keep up profiles and don’t remove badges unless family requests it.

In the past, because our usernames are anonymous, we haven’t allowed sharing of obituaries, but because he had already been interviewed for a success story (which we turned into the tribute email, above), and agreed to the sharing of his name, we posted links to photos of the program from his memorial.

~Kendra


(Jeffrey Otterspoor) #11

As we run a gaming Community with a large chunk above a certain respectable age, we encounter quite some deaths. We sometimes receive cards from family members to end a subscription, or just to let us know because the deceased was very much involved in our Community.

On the other hand we have Community members who let us know that someone has passed away whom they had frequent contact with. In this case the Community usually asks for a wake. In our Community this means that either one of our volunteers or an employee is present in the chat to keep it nice and clean, and we will make sure that 1 or 2 minutes there is no active chat, but only sharing certain emoticons. It is much appreciated by the family and friends of the deceased.

In rare cases I’ve also actually been to a funeral and / or sent flowers.


(Sarah Hawk) #12

Wow, what an amazing ritual.


(Colleen Young) #13

This blog post that I wrote in 2012 sums up most of what has been talked about here - When an online community member dies I especially like the comments on the blog.

Naturally on the community at Virtual Hospice, death was no stranger to the members. I have a couple poignant uses of the community to share.

  1. A very active community member with end stage cancer knew that she would soon no longer be able to participate in the community and so connected me with a close friend. I started a thread where the community could write messages to the member and her friend read them to her before she passed.
  2. In another instance, I was connected to a member not only on Virtual Hospice but also on Facebook. She was young and her circle of friends hadn’t faced death. The community at Virtual Hospice was able to help them find the words to say, to understand what was happening and ultimately welcomed them to the community as they coped with their grief.

(Kathleen Ulrich) #14

We still bump up his discussions, so he is still there. I visited today and the top three threads are his. He was great at getting people to participate daily! A post he started in Feb, 2014 now has all most 15,000 replies. And he was the founder, so his welcome message still greets all new members.


(Sarah Hawk) #15

I like that. It feels like quiet respect.