the dearly deleted
November 29, 2017 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Is there a normal process/timeframe for removing the deceased from your phone contacts list?

I'm at the point where I have a handful of names in my phone contacts list for friends and family members who have passed, and I'm trying to figure out what to do about that. Feels weird to delete them, and weird to have them keep popping up as autofill suggestions. I realize the decision really is a personal choice – but is there any sort of established norm?
posted by roger ackroyd to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My grandmother passed away almost six years (and five phones) ago and her phone number is still in my phone. It's a comfort to me, because she was the person who, for the last two years of medical school, I called every time I was done with a test or on a long drive. I don't think there is any sort of standard timeframe - if it bothers you, delete them, and if it doesn't, keep them.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:19 PM on November 29, 2017 [10 favorites]

I don’t think there’s a normal. For me, for a while it felt weird to think about deleting them, and then one day, it just didn’t.

If the autofill thing weirds you out, would you maybe think about adding a junk character at the start of their contact name, so it didn’t pop up in your phone as much? That might feel just as weird, but that way you could keep them in your phone without having their name pop up on you unawares.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:42 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I mean, not to poke at your question too much, but how could there be an established norm? We all grieve differently, and we all grieve differently for each loss.

My dad passed away almost 18 months ago now. I no longer have his cell number on my contacts list because I never called it anyway, and even if I did, he never heard his phone and wouldn't have answered. So, its absence isn't noticeable. But the entry for my parents' landline in my contacts still says "Mom/Dad Home." That's what it says when I call there,** and that's what shows up on my phone when my mom calls me. It's startling every time I see it and realize that "Dad" is no longer an official part of the equation, but it's even worse to contemplate officially changing "Mom/Dad Home" to "Mom Home." I haven't been able to do that yet -- too final, I guess? -- but I still think about it every time I see it on my phone.

I think you just have to do what's most comfortable for you. If it's hard to see the name of someone you've lost in your contacts list, delete it with some correlating action that honors them. If it's hard to delete it, don't. There's no norm, and there's no right or wrong.

**I originally typed "when I call THEM," which goes to show how hard it is to assimilate the fact that it's no longer a them. It's how you bring yourself to accept the loss that's important, not what you name the contact in its aftermath.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:02 PM on November 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

For me, it's the act of deleting them that feels wrong and cruel.After a year or so I tend to ask my husband to do it for me if it's someone he wasn't as close to. You could try asking someone else to delete for you.
posted by hazyjane at 10:27 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hmmm... last week I went in for an eye exam and found out that my husband's contact information had not been updated after his retirement. Therefore a random person got an odd call from the receptionist about my appointment the next day. I, in turn, did not receive the reminder call.
Point being, do other people now use those phone numbers? It may lead to a strange conversation if an old number is accidentally called.
posted by TrishaU at 10:55 PM on November 29, 2017

My grandma passed away almost ten years ago and the last Christmas check she wrote to me is still in my wallet.

You keep that number in there as long as you need to, and delete it as soon as you need to. We all remember the dead in our own ways.
posted by potrzebie at 10:57 PM on November 29, 2017 [12 favorites]

No established norm at all. I still have contacts in there who died many years ago, but the truth is I love seeing their names show up. If it made me feel bad, I'd delete them, and if it makes you feel bad, delete them! But it makes me feel good, so I keep them. Don't worry; there's no wrong choice here.
posted by Charity Garfein at 11:16 PM on November 29, 2017

Bring up the names, then type ZZ- in front of the first or last name depending on how you sort. The "out-of-date" names will drop to the bottom of the list. You can keep them as long as you want, or after a while, you may delete them. This is a bit like storing old love letters in the back of a drawer, or an unused suit case.
posted by Cranberry at 11:23 PM on November 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

If their phone number gets recycled by the phone company and is still in your contact list, you may start getting social media suggestions / notifications for people joining with that phone number. I know twitter will do this.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:17 AM on November 30, 2017

I don't delete them. It's nice to see their names and numbers when I'm scrolling through my contact list. It reminds me of them.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:56 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm apparently an insensitive oaf compared to most here ;) I delete the contact the contact info, unfriend on FB, etc. rather quickly when somebody dies. I find it more comforting to let them be dead, so to speak, and not be reminded at inopportune times. So whatever works for you is fine I think.
posted by COD at 5:56 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think it depends on what you feel when you see their name come up - does it make you smile? Keep it. Is it a jarring reminder of the loss? Let it go.

I still have my late husband in phone contacts, FB friends, etc after 5 years (though I removed all his family after about a year). It took me two years to change my status on FB from married to widowed, I still can't imagine changing it from that to anything else.

The one place I fought to get his account removed was Linked in, it took a year and a half of repeated requests but I really got a gutpunch every time someone connected to me through him and I needed that to stop.
posted by buildmyworld at 9:14 AM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I understand your question, though. There is a "standard" that a person shouldn't date until a year after their spouse passes away. People will say that's it's just a guideline and you should make the decision that works best for you, but you KNOW that there are gossips talking about the guy who started dating "before his wife was in the ground even a Month!".

So, while grief is personal, there are some society standards. But I don't think that those standards have been established yet for cell phone contacts. And I think it's only because it's so new in our society.
posted by CathyG at 10:36 AM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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