Wars of the Worsts

Holy Hell. Quick disclaimer: I am about to go off on quite a rant. Unfortunately, if you came for something uplifting, tonight is not the night. I've got a lot to say and I'm going to say it. Apologies in advance for any swear words.

I'd been wanting to touch again on mommy wars. I'd planned a post to talk about why moms must always feel the need to attack one another over parenting choices instead of bonding together as moms. My good Lord, that post was exponentially blown out of the water tonight.

The grief community is supposed to be one of unity, understanding, compassion, and comfort. Tonight, I saw the most disgusting opposite of that in a private facebook for grieving families. Not only is it a spot to honor loved ones who have fallen, but a place to seek understanding, to vent, and to let out emotion. Grieving people are emotional. No matter how far out in the process you are, it's emotional, so I will try to keep that in mind as I ease into this.

A widow posted a question on the site that could have been construed as offensive to grieving parents. I am not saying her question was right or wrong, although I really don't think she had ill intention behind it. It could have been worded better, yes, but I think she wanted some validation to something that was bothering her. She wanted to vent, to seek some understanding, and to be comforted about something that was bothering her. I do not know this widow personally, so all of this is just assumption, but after reading her question and following comments, that is the conclusion I came to.
At first, many grieving parents were upset, and I can see their side as why they could have been offended and an argument unfolded.  The question is irrelevant and not something I'm going to get into here, as the post quickly spiraled away from the topic at hand and it is the ensuing shit storm to where this blog is heading.
It escalated from simple, "What you asked was wrong," to, "You can't possibly hurt as much as we do."

Wait. What??
Yes. Someone, or a few someones, started telling this widow that she could never know the pain of burying a child and that her pain was therefore inferior to theirs as parents.
What. The. Fuck.

I am not writing this to argue whose pain is greater. I know the widow world. I walk those shoes daily. It fucking hurts. It is the worst pain I have ever imagined. I know that not only do you lose a spouse, a partner, a love; but you lose your whole world. This was the person you pledged forever to. The person you had plans with. You were supposed to... (fill in the blank). And ya know what? I can not freaking imagine the pain of the parents burying their children. They lost the person they gave life to! The person they were supposed to see grow old, supposed to... (fill in the blank). No parent should ever have to bury a child, that's just not the natural order of things. Both. Ways. Suck. But to turn it into a competition? You have got to be kidding me. As one widow friend of mine elegantly pointed out in the comments, Your perception is your reality. Let that sink in for a moment. Losing Jonny was the single worst experience of my life. In my world, my bubble, my brain, there has been no greater pain than that. I believe it may be safe to assume, that losing Jonny was also the single worst experience of his mother's life. In her world, bubble, brain, there has been no worse pain. Losing my husband was my worst pain, losing a son was hers. Pain, is pain, is pain. It is never a fair assumption to say someone else's pain is not as bad as yours. Never. Hell, in other people's lives, getting a divorce is their greatest pain. I have never been through that. Therefore, it would be completely unfair of me to say Losing my husband in death was much more painful than you losing your husband to infidelity. How in the world can I know that when I have never lived in that person's brain?

I remember a time once when my mom-in-law said to me simply, "You had him for two years. I had him for 26." I hugged her and we cried and held on to each other, sharing in our pain. If one were to analyze the statement, one may wonder, was she assuming her pain is greater than mine, as she lost someone she's had for so many years? One may also assume, is she insinuating my pain is the worst, as I hardly got any time with him in comparison? There need not be an analysis. It is a statement of fact. She had him for 26 years. So long, yet so damn short. She knew him his whole life. He was her child. She raised him and was present for all of his milestones. She was not supposed to outlive him. I had him for 2 years. He was the love of my life, my husband. A wonderful 2 years full of a lifetime of love, but so short. So many things we missed out on together. So many experiences we would never share. It. All. Sucks. PAIN is PAIN is PAIN. The fact of the matter is we lost someone incredibly close to both of us, and in that, we can comfort each other, support each other, and sympathize with each other. No, we will never completely understand the others' pain, but we will know we are not alone in our grief and sadness and in missing him.

The thread was then heightened another notch when a grieving parent commented along the lines of "You can remarry. We can't have another child and replace him." Stop right there. Just. Fucking. Stop.

Let's just talk about this for a second. Just a second because it is really a topic that deserves it's own post (or several). Are you implying that by remarrying I am replacing my husband? I know several widows who are remarried, in serious relationships, moving forward with their lives. In no way, shape, or form does that mean their spouse has been replaced. Absolutely not. It's impossible. I mean, come on. There are a variety of people and a variety of ways to handle things. Some people continue to talk about their late spouses regularly even in new relationships, some choose to remember them quietly or on their own, and others choose to gently close that chapter. In none of those circumstances has that person been replaced.
Just because someone moves forward with their life, keeps living, does not, by any means, mean they have forgotten their past. Do you honestly believe that even those who may not speak of their late spouse often, or share much information about him, really do not think of him? No. You can't tell me that. All circumstances are varied but you can not make me believe that anyone just moves on and forgets and gets a replacement.
And on that note, if I can replace him so easily by remarrying, why can't you replace him just as well by having another child? Too old? Can't conceive? Adopt. Adopt another child. There ya have it, a replacement child. Oh, that doesn't work for you? It doesn't replace the son you lost? WELL HEEIIIDY HO! Maybe now you see where I'm coming from! Maybe now you realize YOU CAN'T JUST FUCKING REPLACE SOMEONE! And seriously, who says that? Who even has the mind to put together that sentence that you can just go ahead and remarry and that will fix everything?
And just for shits and giggles, even if it were desirable or at all possible - do you honestly think it's really that easy to just go and remarry?! Because yes, there is a gaggle of men just waiting to propose to our crazy, sobbing asses. Because no, dating widows isn't one of the toughest things many men may encounter (just ask my past boyfriends - it ain't a walk in the park). Because, of course, we just happened to have a fucking backup list of in case I need a replacement, let me go get a new one! This isn't freaking car shopping!!!! Maybe you total your car and you go buy a shiny new replacement and you don't even think of your old car. You had an eye on the car you wanted so you'll just go pick it up, easy peezy. That's because it is an object. You don't just replace a person!
You don't replace a spouse, you don't replace a child, you don't replace a sibling, a parent. If someone dies, it's not all fixed because there is another one. My husband was one of 10. I know for a fact his siblings miss him every day, and their pain is great and real. They don't feel less grief because they have other siblings. They haven't just replaced his absence by becoming closer to another sibling.  You don't replace people you love!  Hell, if you really think about it, you don't even replace people you don't love. They are people. They come in and out of your lives and you remember them and the ones you love you keep them in your heart. You live your life as best as you can, you move forward, and you hold sacred their memory in your heart forever. You never, ever replace.

So with this ranting out of the way and the stupidity of the comments analyzed, I must say, I pray for those folks. I really do, and not in the southern, "Bless your heart," sarcastic way. I pray for them because, like all of us in that group, they have lost someone so dear to them. They are hurting. They are in pain. And pain is pain is pain. Grief is a nasty bitch. It comes and goes as it pleases and it causes us to say and do things we might not have done with a clear un-grieving mind. Those moms said something I found to be incredibly stupid and hurtful, but they are hurting, too. They are women who love their sons and ache daily. They are probably not stupid or mean. Just because you say or do something perceived as stupid or mean does not mean you are stupid or mean. We aren't always our words or actions. We lash out, we get offended, we get defensive. Shit happens. I do think in groups like that, though, it is important to remember we are in this together. We walk very different paths in the same world. We each have a different grief story, but it is still grief. Like the moms who are attacking each other over parenting, the grieving communities need to band together and hold one another up. Humans need to band together and hold one another up. We need to support, comfort, and attempt to understand others. We need to stop comparing and competing and engaging in these "Wars of the Worsts," and learn to love, empathize, and forgive. Because really, it is humanity that makes us human and it certainly seems there is a dire lack of human in this world. Synonyms of humanity include compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, fellow feeling, kindness, understanding, and sympathy. Let's put the humanity back in human. Let's together learn to hold one another up. There's enough war in this world, in that group we are all victims of war in some form. Let's over power the war in our lives with love for one another.

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."
- Mother Theresa

* I use sons and he a lot, please don't think I discredit you if you've lost a daughter or a she. I use the word that applies to my story (and is simply easier than writing he/she each time) and encourage you to read in the way that suits your story.
** A huge shout out to the 3 widow friends of mine that I do know personally who helped spark this piece by their own comments on the thread. A lot of what you had to say was exactly what I was thinking. It's really crazy how we really can all be on the same page sometimes. W <3 p="">

From the Mouths of Babes

Driving in the truck the other day:

Ariana: I miss my daddy. When is him coming back down to us?

Me: (thinking, crap, how do I answer this without upsetting her?) Well baby, he can't come back down.

Ariana: But he is in Heaven.

Me: Yes, that's right.

Ariana: Well, if you keep the people you love who went to Heaven in your heart, they will always come back to you.

And that my friends, is how I was schooled by my far-wiser than me 4 year old.

Thank God for children. Thank God for my beautiful little girl who can really put me in my place and remind me of what is important.

I fear that one day she'll keep waiting for him to come back down and realize that while he is in our hearts every single day, he can't physically come back down to us, and that will crush her. I just pray she always feels him with her, always has her own special relationship with him.

Father's Day was pretty difficult for her.  We sent balloons to Heaven like we always do, and afterward she cried and said how much she missed her daddy. My only strategy was to remind her that her daddy loves her and is watching from Heaven and we will see him again some day and in the meantime to remember she has so many people here on Earth with her who love her, too.

Parenting is so hard and so rewarding. It is a constant lesson and a constant test. I never want to hurt her, but I also want to be real with her. I want her to understand things, even if those things are hard and unfair. I think, as I've said before, that she has a far better understanding than most adults I know.

Day is Done, Gone the Sun

I remember when we used to sing Taps at the end of camping trips and other Girl Scout functions.  I never really understood why my dad, a Vietnam veteran, seemed to cringe when we'd sing the tune, or why he'd mute the TV when it played on shows the news.  I remember loving Memorial Day, being awesome as a day off school and a kick start to summer, and while I knew the reason behind it, I wasn't quite sure as to why some people seemed so solemn.  Now, it's a race between dad and I to the remote for the mute button at the first note of Taps, and I'm a huge advocate for "reason for the season" type information on Memorial Day.  Ignorance is bliss.  When something hits close to home, you really understand things.  You grasp what you've been missing for years.  And you wish it weren't quite so personal.

I've gotta say, I am so, so proud of my facebook friends this weekend and yesterday. So many of you were sharing the true meaning of Memorial Day and enlightening those who may not have a personal relation to the "holiday."  I saw post upon post about how Memorial Day and Veteran's Day are different, about how it's not just the beginning of summer or just a day for BBQing (although it is an ideal day to BBQ and I believe our guys in Heaven would appreciate a good BBQ!), and about the true meaning of Memorial Day and how "Happy Memorial Day" might not be exactly appropriate, (the post about would you say 'Happy Funeral Day' to someone really resonated with me, that was a good one).  I don't know if knowing us personally drove some people to share their thoughts on the importance of the day or if they're just educated folks, but I just want to thank everyone for remembering and honoring.  You guys were amazing and I was really pleased with my newsfeed yesterday.   The only way to cure ignorance (and I do not mean that in a derogatory way but only a definition - lack of education - way) is to educate.  I commend you, friends of mine on facebook, for educating, for honoring, and for remembering.

My Memorial Day was pretty low-key this year.  I spent the early parts of the day working on the chicken coop here at LPF.  We recently acquired 6 chickens and 2 ducks and I am beyond ready to move them out of my garage and into their own home.  So we worked all day, I burned my skin, and we got a majority of the coop built (huge thanks to my amazing family for helping me in all my crazy farm endeavors, I love you and you are the best!)  In the evening, I had a small "viewing party" with Ariana, my parents, and some of my closest friends to watch the Memorial Day special on HLN that Jonny, Ariana and I were featured in.  It was nice having some of my closest homies with me to watch.  A group of people who have been there, some "before" and some "after," and known me at various points in my journey.  I can't thank them, and all of you, enough for your support during this crazy roller coaster of life.  I am so grateful to have such an amazing support network and to be assured that Jonny's memory will live on.  I am a lucky girl to be surrounded by such amazing people. I am also so grateful with the job HLN did on my story, as well as the two following stories.  I was super moved by the story that followed mine, a fellow Gold Star wife who is also an active duty soldier, as well as the last story of the show, that of the journey of a West Point jacket making it back to it's owner's widow.  I want to thank the folks over at HLN (Andres you rock and it was a pleasure working with all of you!!) for following along and reading, supporting us Gold Star families, and doing an amazing Memorial Day special.   I am also really impressed with the written portion of my story, I think they did our story justice, highlighted some very important parts of our life together, and I believe Jonny would be proud.  If you missed it and want to check it out, here's my portion, and the rest can be found on the HLN site, as well.

Also, how do you guys like the new set up? I want to thank the lovely Nicole at Broken Road Creative  for providing me with the most beautiful blog designs since I started this thang.  Nicole, you are the bees knees and I love you!  If you are interested in getting your blog revamped at Broken Road, please feel free to use the code ALITTLEPINK until June 27, 2014, to get 25% off your pre-made or custom blog design with Nicole.

I hope you all enjoyed your long weekend, had a great time with friends and family, ate delicious foods, and had a drink or two for those who are watching from Heaven and guarding the pearly gates!

Semper Fi,
Mrs P

Rodeo Clown

One thing I've always prided myself on is having the ability to laugh at myself.  It's very rare that I take myself seriously.  I'd rather be goofing off and making fun out of life, because I really want to enjoy my time here.

When I was a kid, I really disliked going to Sunday school.  I was raised Catholic and thus we attended a Catholic church and Sunday school.  It always seemed as if the kids there all knew each other and I was an outsider.  I never really felt I fit in there.   I was kind of a shy kid - believe it or not. I told my dad that I really didn't like going, that it wasn't fun and I didn't have friends there.  I will never forget the lesson he taught me, as I've lived by it ever since (and it might help explain why I am usually ridiculous).  He told me you can make fun out of anything, you just have to find a way how.  He never said don't take your studies seriously, or don't learn, he just said find a way to enjoy even the things you don't really like to do.  Because let's face it, as adults, hell as children even, we all have to do tons of things we don't like to do (I type this as I wait on laundry to finish so I can switch the wet load over before bed and not have a stinky load of clothes... which happens... a lot).

So I went forth with his advice.  I became a bit of a goofball.  I still take things seriously, I've always done well in school and I always try to do a good job at work, whatever work that may be at the time, but I find ways to enjoy it.  I chat and make friends, I tell really, really corny jokes. I dress in silly outfits.  Just things to make me, and sometimes even the people around me, smile and enjoy even the yucky tasks.

I really hate running. Like super hate it. But I've always been pretty intrigued by fun runs. (Yea, I know, makes no sense to me either). Maybe the obstacles and the getting dirty are the silly part of running that make me actually want to do the task I hate - run.  So when I saw the ROC (Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge) Race was coming to Baltimore - I had to try it. I mean, who hasn't watched Wipe Out! and totally wanted to try those crazy stunts. So today a group of friends and I set out to conquer the blow up appartuses (apparati?) that were erected throughout Baltimore.  Ok, so it definitely didn't help me enjoy running... in fact to be honest, I didn't even run much (nothing like something physically demanding to show you how wickedly out of shape you really are), but I had so much fun!  Some people were there in silly outfits.  Some were there looking relatively cute with makeup and stuff (hey no judgement here, I just don't get the point myself but I'm not pro!) not I! I got totally into the ridiculous theme.  In fact, I looked like this:

The Hillbilly Hustlaz (another stroke of creative genius stolen from my dad), Thanks Guys!

Go ahead, laugh. I was. All the way to the finish line (even it took me a bajillion hours!) It was such a hilarious and fun filled day. I'm so thankful to have friends who get goofy with me, especially when I really need a pick me up.

People have asked me how I could still laugh in the times shortly after Jonny's death, or how I can laugh and say some of the inappropriate widow humor things I say (we're dark, dark people) and the truth is that I would much rather be laughing than crying. Life is hard. There is no doubt about that.  And often, life isn't funny at all. But if we take a moment to find something even remotely amusing even in the hardest of times, if we can find our sense of humor even when everything looks bleak, than maybe we might have a little hope to keep smiling and laughing all the way to the finish line.

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