A What Not To Say Post
For those of you who have cringed as you’ve realized how badly you put your foot in your mouth when speaking to a widow after reading one of my What Not To Say posts, you may feel a bit better about yourselves. You don’t have an entourage of speech writers and etiquette people who are supposed to help you avoid FUBAR situations like the one that hijacked my feed today. I wasn’t there. I don’t know what was said or in what context. But I know my blood was boiling for Mrs. Sgt. La David Johnson. Ma’am, I wish I could give you the biggest squeezy hug ever given and make it better. I know I can’t. And for that, I am truly sorry.
What I can do is continue to educate people on what not to say to avoid causing further pain to those grieving. So, here goes my official What Not To Say-Donald Trump Edition. An open letter to the President of the United States.
Dear Mr. President:
As a long-time military spouse, and now Widow, I’m in a unique position to help you.
It’s a f@#$%d up sacrifice that military families commit to. Proudly. I will never regret a second of the service I gave my country and know that Dan wouldn’t regret his either, even after he ended up with a messed up disease likely caused by his military service. Yes. We all know what the worst case scenario is. But you don’t EVER say that someone knew what they were signing up for, in any context. Period. No matter who you are or what title you currently hold.
Mr. President, the minute you hear your husband has died, you stop breathing. You stop existing as YOU and watch your entire universe shatter. At that moment, you are a raw wound, and all you need is unconditional love and support. Not platitudes, not rote condolences, just love and support.
Mr. President, my fellow widows and I have been on the receiving end of horribly hurtful comments made by well-meaning individuals who just didn’t know what to say. I have to believe that you didn’t intend to wound Mrs. Johnson further after she and her family just made the ultimate sacrifice, and as she is facing a new battle of her own, one of survival.
Mr. President, I’m not writing to tell you how badly you messed this up. I’m writing to offer my help. Those who have been entrusted to help you in these situations have clearly not been doing their job to the level that you are heeding their guidance. Unfortunately, rewind isn’t an option in real life. So here is a suggestion that you may want to put aside and remember as you sign orders sending our husbands, wives, sons, and daughters into harm’s way.
Mrs. Johnson. I can’t imagine what you are feeling right now. I know that nothing I can say will make any of it better or bring him back. And for that, I am truly sorry. I hold the men and women of our armed forces in the highest regard because they’ve taken on the mantle of protecting our freedoms at their own risk. A risk my own family hasn’t taken, and for that, I am forever grateful. When Sgt. Johnson put his life on the line, it was for all of us. And we all owe him a debt of gratitude. Our country owes you and your family for the sacrifices you have made and will continue to make going forward. Thank you is wholly inadequate, but I don’t have any other words to express the appreciation of our thankful nation.
Mr. President, you still have the opportunity to make this right with Mrs. Johnson. Call her. Tell her you screwed up. That in your role as President, this is the hardest thing you have to do. Not because you don’t want to do it, but because you wish it weren’t necessary. Tell her that it’s because you wish that all of them would come home to us. Ask her to forgive you for causing her pain due to your discomfort. Don’t make it a photo op, or press event. She may not want to hear it. Say it anyway. She may yell at you. Take it without arguing or getting defensive. Because when that call ends, you get to go back to your life and your intact family. She doesn’t.
Mr. President, part of me doubts you will ever even see this. Or if you do, that you won’t care. But if you do, please feel free to call me if you’d like to discuss this further or need any advice going forward.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.