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="">

10 comments

  1. You summed up everything I was thinking tonight! I was shaking with anger after reading that comment! How shameful that anyone would think a loved one is replaceable. I would want my love ones to move forward and find peace but I would never want to be replaced.

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  2. My mother lived through the loss of two children, one an infant of only 4 months and the other a son who died in Vietnam at 25 years of age. Ten years after losing her son she lost her husband of 34 years and 11 months later she slipped away from her surviving children and grandchildren. It seemed to me then and now that in spite of being the strongest woman I have ever known that she simply couldn't stand living her life without my father. Loss is individual and I can never truly understand another's grief but I can and will always respect the fact that losing a loved one leaves a hole that can never be filled by anyone else.

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  3. Nailed it. Thank you for sharing! xoxox

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  4. I am sorry those grieving parents were hurtful towards the widow, and by being hurtful to her specifically they were hurtful to the rest of you. People say the craziest things when they are hurting, and I think you said it all perfectly. I hope your private group is able to all stop, breathe, act like adults and remember that comparing "worst" doesn't help anyone. BIG hugs!

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  5. You are so bang on with your comments!!

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  6. Well spoken! This is an excellent post, one I think could be very useful to even non-widow military spouse situations, as all so often there is strife between in-laws. Perhaps the root of it is jealousy, but either way, your response is pretty hard to counter. I hope your wisdom helps clear the air in that group.

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  7. I find it is the same when a celebrity dies, everyone thinks it is 'worse' than anyone else dieing. It is not! Just because the person had an Academy Award as an example does not make the situation even more tragic than if a 'regular' person died.

    Debbie

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  8. Amazing post! Thanks for sharing and standing up for her

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  9. Well said. I believe in support groups, but often they turn into contests.

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  10. I read a comment someone made about the General's death and how "it's about time the top-brass felt that pain". I don't know what disgusted me more, the comment or the people that liked it. It made me sick because this is a time where the mil-community needs to come together.

    It disgusted me because like you said, it seems everyone wants to "one up" one another. You don't do something like that when it comes to death because people grieve differently. Some can get over it in one year, some it takes ten. Everyone has endured some type of pain, loss or grief in some form or another.

    I'm so over people one-upping each other and being so self-righteous and self-absorbed!

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