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 hearts has given purpose to the pain that I walked through. But most of you reached out simply to support me, 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 to 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 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 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 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 proof read it a few hundred more times.
One other technical note: A couple people tried to be smart and point 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 towards 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.