I read a post this week, a really good one actually, written by a guy who'd lost both of his parents. You can read it here if you're so inclined. It was actually published last year, and it wandered into my newsfeed just now. It was a refreshingly honest take on what life is really like once you find yourself wandering the planet without parents, from the truth about holidays to the fact that no one tells you about the logistics of dealing with the things left behind.
I found myself nodding along more than a few times as I read his piece, struck by the raw truth in his words, the humor in the stories he shared. I thought back about some of the things I miss the most about my parents, stories not too far removed from the ones he wrote about, and I understood where he was coming from.
It's rare for me to feel that. At my age, I don't have many friends that have lost both parents. There are a few who've lost a parent or an in-law, but far more of my contemporaries have both of their parents still here. The luckiest ones still have grandparents.
There are things about being parentless that I don't really think people can understand until they're here, hanging out on this side with us, the orphaned adults of the world, twiddling their thumbs on holidays and not getting phone calls on their birthdays.
It's weird. Surreal at times.
Anyhow, the article isn't really what hit me in the gut.
It was the comments.
Why did I read the comments? Why does anyone ever read the comments? Why do people insist on leaving comments like the ones I read?
I need to not read the comments.
People were pissed that he said his parents were "hella dead". People were mad that he told the stories he told, that he was so brash and direct with his delivery.
People made all kinds of assumptions about him and his parents and the relationship they had based on the words he'd written, and there weren't even that many words. It was a fairly short piece, certainly not anywhere near long enough to make suppositions about this writer or his family dynamics.
Maybe I'm just more sensitive to it because I'm also a writer that has been personally attacked and judged for things I've written since the deaths of my parents.
Isn't that how the internet works though? It has, at least in my experience. When I've had posts go viral, I've had tons of people descend on my blog, read one post as though it exists in a vacuum, make ample assumptions about me, and then attack me personally for the few words they read in a huge sea of the words I've ever written.
When new bloggers tell me how much they anticipate having something go viral, I caution them to be careful what they wish for. For the love.
It's the nature of the internet to be this way, though, I think. It happens here, even on my ordinary posts sometimes. People will read one thing and leave me some kind of comment, inferring whatever information they think needs inferred (usually incorrectly), then tell me what they really think of me. It happens on my fan page fairly often, where people fill in the gaps between my words with whatever bias they choose to read, then turn it back on me and try to blame me for the words they've used to fill in the blanks. It has happened even with people who knew me in real life, who should know better, who should know me.
These comments hurt. The assumptions people make about us hurt. The judgement given over a few paragraphs is just ridiculous at times.
I've lost friendships over it.
Ultimately, though, it comes down to something simple, something that applies as much in real life as it does online...don't judge something you haven't lived.
Even if you've lost your parents, understand that your experience is inevitably going to be different than someone else's. You are different, your parents were different, your relationships were different, your circumstances were different. Your loss is different, and so is your grief.
And if your parents are still alive, please don't judge those of us who've already lost ours...because you really just can't possibly understand.
Let people feel whatever they feel.
If there is ever a time when you feel compelled to judge someone for their feelings or the expression of them, take a step back and think about whether you'd want someone who only knows a minuscule bit of your story judging you for the same thing.
Let writers write whatever they feel compelled to write about their lives. Even if it doesn't resonate with you, I can promise that there is someone else out there staring at a computer screen nodding along with what they've said.
I can also promise you that it's impossible to know much about someone from one post, from one article. I also promise you that for every piece of a story written, there are volumes left untold.
I loved my parents. I had a really fucked up relationship with my Mom, but I loved her and I miss her and I mourn her loss. Some people can't understand that, and that's fine. It's not my job to make them understand.
I'd try to explain it, but if you don't get it yet, you might someday.
And when you do, we'll be here, those of who arrived already, in this weird parentless place where the holidays are quiet and the phone doesn't ring.
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