Yesterday I was very excited to see that the comedian Patton Oswalt had announced his engagement to Meredith Salenger. Now, anyone who know’s me knows that I don’t follow the lives of celebrities at all. I’ve made an exception for him. Our spouses both unexpectedly died within three days of each other and both of us have processed our grief journey fairly openly. (Of course, his platform is a mite bigger than mine lol.)
On the 102nd day of his journey (105 for me) he wrote in a Facebook post:
I shared that post on my own page because I could connect to that place he was in. No longer frozen, but the crawling was so painful.
Well, it’s been 442 days for him now and it makes my heart happy to see that his heart has continued to move forward, that it has healed and expanded to the place where he can now love another. My happiness for him quickly shifted to indignant anger on his behalf as I began to read the comments under the article:
Comment after comment poured out judgment and disdain. It made me sick. I had to stop reading before I gave in to the temptation to rain fire in response to every comment. Instead, I decided to address them here all at once.
So, my dear ignorant, judgmental, a—holes, this one is for you.
You aren’t entitled to an opinion. You don’t get to comment on the choices of a widower while you sit happily next to your own living spouse. You didn’t have to stand and watch your mundane morning turn into your absolute worst nightmare. You didn’t have to face the agony of despair and the only person who could possibly bring you comfort had been ripped from your life forever. You didn’t have to stand in the ashes of what was once your life, when the sun itself darkened and the very air you breathed felt toxic in your lungs. Go back to scrolling Facebook, and keep your ignorance to yourself.
Who gave you the position to judge when it’s “too soon” for a person who has suffered the worst to be able to find happiness and companionship again? It’s been 15 months! How long should a widow sit in isolation before you are comfortable enough to release them from their solitary confinement? Because it’s really about you, isn’t it? You aren’t actually concerned about the heart of the person who has found the strength and courage to love once more. You’re worried about your own offended sensibilities rooted in old Victorian traditions. Stop pretending you are actually concerned about their “healing.”
And it does take strength and courage. To imply that it is weakness that drives someone who has lost their spouse to choose to love again is asinine. Unlike most, those who have been widowed are hyper-aware that everyone they see will someday die. We know intimately that the price of love is pain. So if you see a widow or widower overcome that knowledge and choose to open their heart to that pain once again, instead of judging, you should be celebrating their bravery and fortitude. That much courage deserves a freaking parade.
And another thing. The person who comes after cannot and will not replace the one we lost. To imply that is insulting to the widow, it’s insulting to the new love, and it’s insulting to the love who was lost. Earlier I said that I was happy to see Patton Oswalt’s heart had expanded. I used that word intentionally. I say expanded because that’s what widowed hearts do. They expand. One love isn’t moved out to make room for someone new. An addition is built. Just like my love for my daughter was not diminished by the birth of my son, so too, the love widows can have for someone new does not diminish the love of the one lost. The expansion of the heart is part of the grieving process.
We’ve gone through hell fire and lived. We don’t need your negativity in our lives. So please, if what you have to say about a widow or widower finding love again isn’t supportive and encouraging, then keep it to yourself. We aren’t interested in hearing it.
P.S. Mr. Oswalt, if this somehow gets to you, from one widow to another, I would like to say congratulations from the bottom of my heart. I am so incredibly happy for you and I hope I am just as lucky someday.
Editor’s note: Oswalt read this piece and wrote the following on Facebook on July 8.