Personal tragedy and social media
Pat Rhoads - Nonprofit Marketing & Social Media Professional
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Another 'Expert', only I'm not

Personal tragedy and social media

I've been writing on this blog for about a year, and active as a social media professional full time for about a year and a half. Before that, I used it part time for work and quite a bit on my own for personal use.
During that time, I learned the ropes, and tried to become a savvy social media user. I felt like I had a ways to go, but that overall I was getting pretty good at this social media thing. After all, someone was paying me to do it full time, and I was building some great relationships. I was meeting people, got a few speaking gigs, really starting to hit my stride.
Aimee and I at our weddingThen December 18, 2011 happened.
During a vacation in the Florida Keys with my wife's side of the family (to commemorate the one year anniversary of her father's passing due to cancer), my wife decided to try scuba diving, something she'd wanted to do for years. At some point between the first and second dive, the boat took on water rapidly, capsized, and sank, trapping her and one other person on the boat. Six other passengers and crew got out almost immediately. Of the two that were trapped, the other person was rescued first, and was eventually revived. My wife was removed from the vessel next, but those that performed CPR on her while at sea and who administered aid once the boat reached shore were never able to revive her.
She was pronounced dead at the marina. And just like that, I was a widower and single father to a three year old girl.
In the aftermath of this horrendous loss, one of the many things I was faced with was letting people know what had happened. I knew there'd be tons of questions, expressions of condolences, and offers to help.
I turned to Facebook.
In the first weeks after the tragedy, I used Facebook almost exclusively. The community of support I found there was incredible, plus it worked nearly as well as email as a communication tool.
As things settled a bit, I then began to let Twitter friends know about what had happened. Some folks I was close enough to that they already knew, and soon others were also offering their support. In the midst of my grief, I was grateful to have so many people surrounding me, even if many of them could only do so online.
And I guess that's the point of my post today. I don't know how I would have made it through these first four months without the community of support I've had. But through social media, I received so much love and support that really was a comfort through what is still a very dark time. And much of that support is still there, with people regularly checking in with me to see how things are going and whether or not we need anything.
Social media may get lots of buzz for its PR, crisis management, and marketing potential, and rightly so. But it can also be a tremendous tool during personal tragedy as well.
*For more about my wife's death and what I and our family have gone through since then, visit the blog I started the day after it happened:

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