This is not going to be one of my normal blogs. I want to take the time to respond to the unexpected event of my previous blog post about Patton Oswalt’s engagement going viral and the resulting flood of messages across all of my social media platforms. As much as I truly wish I could reply individually, I simply don’t have the time. But I will say, I have read each one and they have all touched my heart.
First, I’m going to respond to the people who shared their stories with me and then I’m going to answer some of the criticisms of what I wrote.
To those who have lost a spouse,
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. Some of you are further down the road and some have only just embarked. Wherever you are, I am so so incredibly sorry that you are on this journey with me. The fact that many of you have told me that my words have eased your heart has given purpose to the pain that I walked through. But most of you reached out simply to support me, and for that I thank you. There was a common phrase in your messages to me; you thanked me for being “your voice.” I am so humbled that you would grant that honor to me. I dare not offer any advice even though some of you have asked. Grief is too complicated, too individual. It would be arrogant to attempt to try to give some sort of blanket statement and I know we all are sick of the cliches. While I cannot offer advice, my voice and my heart are humbly at your service.
Those who know someone who lost a spouse,
Many have reached out with an appreciation for helping you understand the person in your life who is moving forward after losing their spouse. (We don’t move on, we move forward.) I am so glad I was able to bring some light to the complicated reality that the hearts of the widowed community face. I was brought to tears when I read some of your stories of how my words were able to help you accept the fact that your friend or family member was moving forward with someone new. Someone shared that my blog had moved him to reach out and try and make amends with someone who he had broken relationship with because he had felt that the person had “moved on” too quickly. There’s nothing more that I could wish for than that my words to be the catalyst for restoration and healing in the relationships of my readers.
Those in a relationship with someone who lost a spouse
I must say, it did not even occur to me that this particular group would be impacted by my blog, but I’m so glad that I was able to come to your defense as well. You are not a replacement and you are so much more than a “warm body”. It takes an incredibly special person to love someone who has lost someone. Your value cannot be overstated. I have more to say here but I think perhaps I’ll dedicate a blog to this topic sometime soon.
And now for the criticism…
I’d like to note that as I poured through all of the responses I don’t think I came across a single negative comment from someone in the widowed community. All of the negativity came from the outside.
I haven’t responded individually to the trolls or objectors. I refrained, as tempting as it was to respond, “please continue to enlighten me to the error of my ways with your expert use of profanity.” Most of the negative commenters were beneath responding to, but I will briefly answer some of the common themes amongst my critics here:
Religion & Politics
“You know he’s an atheist right?”
“Have you heard his political views?”
<Insert exasperated growling here> Ok. I’m politically homeless so I likely would disagree with his politics whatever they may be. I haven’t paid attention so I can’t say for sure. Yes. I am a Christian. Yes. I am aware that Patton Oswalt is an atheist. So what? Why does that matter? What did that have to do with anything I was talking about? Why do we as a culture feel that we must agree with every facet of someone’s life in order to be able to support them? Different life views do not obligate us to hate each other. Seriously, stop it. I don’t have to agree with a single thing that someone thinks is to support them with love and compassion. I wasn’t defending Patton Oswald’s politics. I wasn’t defending his religion.. or lack thereof. I wasn’t defending his comedy or celebrity status. I was defending his right to be human.
On the topic of my particular faith. There were a few grumbles about the fact that I end my blog posts with verses. No one complained about the content of said verses, just the source. If I had quoted a line from Buddha or Gandhi about not judging, no one would have batted an eyelash.
That being said, I want my readers to know that I don’t preach. It’s not my job to convince anyone of anything. I will share my personal experience with God and faith, but I will not attack or condemn anyone who disagrees with me. And I’m a bit of a rogue in the Christian culture so it could very well be other Christians disagreeing with me and that’s ok too.
That Curse Word
The funny thing is… I don’t curse. Ever. I literally sat there for 20 minutes trying to come up with a different word to capture my feeling. I even looked on Thesaurus .com. “Jerks” just didn’t seem to cut it so I left it in. My running joke is that I only curse when I really really mean it, but when I do I immediately get everyone’s attention. Well, apparently that’s true. First curse word in 16 months of blogging and I get 3.5 million views.
Some people couldn’t find anything to debate in my content so they tried to discredit me by pointing out grammar mistakes and one spelling error. If that’s all they could come up with then I guess I’m ok. But let me paint the whole picture for you. I wrote that blog laying on my stomach on my living room floor as I tried to keep my 6-month-old entertained and my toddler used me as her own personal jungle gym.
So, yes, there were mistakes. But I also didn’t think anyone outside my friends or family was going to read it. If I had known it was going to be quoted on national TV I would have proofread it a few hundred more times.
One other technical note: A couple people tried to be smart and pointed out my line “from one widow to another” and respond “um.. he’s a widowER”. I’d just like to say *actual* widowers could care less if they are referred to as a “widow”. The “er” at the end doesn’t make it suck any less that their wife is dead. (And just in case I was wrong I polled them. 3,000+ members in the Facebook group. Not one had an issue with the way I worded my last blog)
“You aren’t entitled to an opinion”
People really don’t like to be told to mind their own business. My biggest critique was this particular line. If I knew so many people were going to be reading it I would have explained it a little better. Obviously, everyone *has* opinions. I can’t control what people think. I wasn’t trying to be the “thought police”. My point was that people shouldn’t talk about things they don’t know or understand. I’m not sure why we as a culture feel compelled to have a passionate opinion about everything, even things we have no knowledge or experience in.
I wrote a blog comparing grief to childbirth after my son was born so I’m going to use childbirth to explain this point further.
Before getting pregnant I might have had ideas or information about the process of labor but until I went through it I did not truly understand it.
I gave birth to both of my children without any pain medications or medical interventions. I was amazed at what my body was capable of. I believe that women are stronger than they (or their doctors) think they are and, *when asked*, I encourage pregnant women to get informed and trust their bodies. However, I also understand that every labor is different. Every woman is different. Every situation is different. Even though I have knowledge and experience when it comes to childbirth it is not my place to give my unsolicited opinion to every pregnant woman who walks by. I personally don’t like scheduled c-sections as a general rule, however, I have a friend who has a medical issue that would endanger her if she attempted a vaginal birth. If a scheduled c-section wasn’t an option for her she would have to put her life at risk to have children. Even if she didn’t have that issue she would still have the right to go through labor in whatever way is best for her.
Like childbirth, grief is very individual. We all manage our pain differently but the goal, in the end, is the same: new life. Unless you have gone through it yourself or have studied to work professionally in that field… your opinion is based on ignorance. Even if you do have personal or professional experience unless you have been asked you should still keep your opinion to yourself.
This went a little longer than I was expecting but I feel like I’ve covered the vast majority of the comments and messages that I have received so I’ll finish up now. I’m very self-conscious and aware that my readership has expanded dramatically. I’m still figuring out what I’m supposed to do with this platform I have been given. I look forward to getting to know all of you new readers and allowing you to get to know me as I continue to write through my journey toward healing.
The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
ps. I’m not claiming to be wise.. just emphasizing the danger of reckless words.
Good job! You handle yourself very maturely in spite of some unwarranted criticism. I laughed when you wrote the part about cussing. I’m just like you. I NEVER cuss but a few horrific things have brought out a choice word because no other word cuts it. Blessings to you.
I am very new to following your blog Erica and I have to say I wish I had started following you sooner. A friend of mine shared your write up on Patton Oswalt’s engagement and cried, I couldn’t believe someone was actually speaking my words and thoughts. It was like finding something that had been lost for years. I lost my husband to cancer just over a year ago and was doing what I could to move forward and that included dating a close of friend of both of us. I was devastated when people I loved were not happy that I was happy. They just felt entitled to share their opinions when in the end they had no previous experiences to offer their opinions. The best thing I ever did was writing. I have completed a short story of my life experiences during and after my husband passed away and hope to one day share my story with others.
Thank you for sharing your life and experience. You are a true inspiration.
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That works for me….(2+ years past losing my love)
I’m married to a widow(er) and I know there are a lot of surprised reactions about how quickly we got together after his loss. Fortunately the vast majority of people are too polite to express their opinions, which as you say, they are welcome to but they are not welcome to share it with us. They have no right to say how either of us ‘should’ behave. They don’t know what my husband went through, or how he credits me with saving his life at a time when he could see no future. He still loves his first wife but life is so different now he sees it as a lifetime ago. That doesn’t change or lessen his feelings for her or for me. Love is not finite and cannot be predicted or controlled. Xxx
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Thank you for your words of wisdom! You have helped me immensely in my journey. My husband died the same day as Patton Oswalt’s wife. I too had the experience of awakening on a ho hum “normal” day to find my world was shattered and my life over. Trying to rebuild a life when something this devastating has ripped your world apart is unimaginable if you have not lived through it personally. People just cannot even begin to fathom what a person goes through in this situation. It feels like my heart died with my husband. Even though I am dating again, it is not for love. My children are grown, and even though I have more friends than anyone should be blessed with, I need male companionship. The man I have been seeing understands this. I am sure that I have been judged harshly by people, but I agree with you that they do not have an opinion. Or rather, they don’t have an opinion that matters to me!
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Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For having the guts to write what I have felt but couldn’t voice.
Almost 5 years ago I lost my high school sweetheart husband of over 38 years to a sudden heart attack. Just 10 days after our first grandchild was born. I was devastated to say the least.
3 months later I connected on Facebook with a high school classmate who had lost his high school sweetheart wife of almost 38 years to an equally sudden car accident on the day my grandson was born.
Long story short, he UNDERSTOOD! Perhaps the only one who did or could. He is a Pastor. Had dealt with grieving people frequently and thought he understood. After his wife died, he said he knew immediately that he didn’t have a clue. You cannot comprehend that which you have never experienced. And losing a parent, grandparent or other loved one is not the same as losing half of yourself. I told him God sent him to me. He must have!
3 years ago we married. Most people were very happy for us. My family was not and still have not accepted my marriage. I’m not sure they ever will. “Too soon!” I think not! I know that I cannot give them what they want… their daddy! Yeah well, I can’t give myself that either! But I understand that they cannot understand that which they have not experienced. And I hope they never will!
We talk about our deceased spouses! They were our lives and we are not replacements for them. We tell people we are extensions of each other’s lives. 38 years cannot be replaced.
We turned a lot of heads when we first starting dating. Our ears were burning quite often! Some I’m convinced were secretly jealous of our good fortune to find happiness again. But we also had a lot of support and for that I am grateful!
We are happy together! But the grieving has not ended. I don’t expect it ever will. But we understand that in each other. It is a part of our lives! It is possible to love 2 men with your whole heart at the same time. I know! Because I do! And he does!
As for everyone whose opinion is different, well you know what they say about opinions. ……..everybody’s got one.
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Bless you!! Oh how I can relate….https://tenthousanddays.blog/
You have really become an inspiration to me Erica, and I thank you for that. I am nearing 10,000 days into my journey. I have wanted to get a blog together for a long time. After being touched by your work, I finally did it…
I love the P.S. notation at the end.
Thank you for the humility, guts, and bravery evidenced by your will to address grief in an open format.
From one stranger to another, I wish you well.