By Kate Branch
I studied Art Therapy at the University of New South Wales, and for my Masters, I was honoured to work with adults in palliative care. Originally, I was assigned to make art with them, however organically I found myself starting to compile their life photography albums with them.
Several of my clients had dementia meaning some of their memories were eroding, but often the earlier ones remained intact which was why they delighted in looking back over old photos. I realised I could help them to re-live, re-experience and delight in their earlier memories in this way. Although clients would not remember me week to week, I became very familiar with their child’s first walk, the first home they bought with their husband, even the first dress they sewed for their daughter. It turned out this could be a really therapeutic tool, and it was such a rich and sacred way for us to connect. I relished hearing about their memories which they could enjoy once again through sharing with me.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have had to re-evaluate how we grieve loved ones who have passed. Sometimes we physically cannot attend the funeral because of travel restrictions, so for many this meant looking for a new way to celebrate a life by sharing their story online. This leads to the connection between digital legacy and “end of life celebration” story telling.
The visual celebration of life that was once saved for the goodbye at a funeral can now be integrated into a person’s digital legacy. Compiling much-loved photos can provide immeasurable comfort to the friends and family of loved ones now passed, especially as they can be savoured online for years to come and revisited again and again. I have certainly seen the power of this process firsthand. Not only does it give comfort to members who could not attend the funeral but it can also help tell the past one’s story to future generations to come too!
Imagine if I could’ve had access to a Facebook post from my Great Great Great Great Grandfather who was a convict from Ireland; he and his brother had stolen a potato to feed their family in the Irish potato famine and after the conviction was sent to Australia. I have a certificate to prove this, but what if I’d had access to an image he had taken on the convict boat that encapsulated his trials and tribulations, or perhaps a photo of the sea with a caption underneath reading…“My view for the next six months.” I would’ve had that framed to remind me of the strength my genetic heritage had.
I am not talking about fake “Facebook” lives here, but images that tell a real story about your loved one’s life. Choosing and reliving memories through carefully chosen images can be incredibly therapeutic, but a digital legacy can also be inspirational for many generations to come. With this in mind, I’ve compiled some links, below, to the most common platforms that offer a digital legacy for loved ones who have passed on. If you are nominated as an account manager you can even go one step further and also include a final post featuring some of their most iconic images in video slideshow form. This can be enjoyed for many generations to come.
Set up ‘Inactive account manager’ – this allows you to specify when Google should consider your account to be inactive and what they will do with your data afterwards. You can share it with someone you trust or ask Google to delete it. https://myaccount.google.com/inactive
You can choose to either appoint a legacy contact to look after your memorialised account or have your account permanently deleted from Facebook. You can add, change or remove your legacy contact in your account’s general settings at any time.
To add a legacy contact:
To find out more visit: https://www.facebook.com/help/991335594313139
About the Author: Kate Branch is the author of How to look good in Photos, and host of the podcast Gratitude Shot. Her work covers photography, social media, and public relations, and has appeared in the La Daily, Australian Daily Telegraph, and Female First. Kate has an M.A. from UWS and is passionate about travel, and lives in Sydney with her husband and two kids.