We’ve all seen how many likes an engagement announcement can rack up on Facebook: hell, one US comedian put out nine “engagement” posts in the space of a single day (each featuring a different woman), and still got hundreds of digital thumbs ups on each one.
So, when Patton Oswalt and Meredith Salenger announced their engagement earlier this month, it’s no surprise that the couple hoped to receive congratulatory messages from their fans.
The post featured Salenger hugging Oswalt’s eight-year-old daughter Alice, a close-up of her engagement ring, and the handwritten proposal.
“It's official. I'm the luckiest happiest girl in the universe,” wrote Salenger. “I love you @pattonoswalt [and] I love you Alice Oswalt.”
Unfortunately, though, the happy post was far too tempting a bait for social media trolls: crawling out from underneath their bridges, these Twitter users decided that Oswalt needed reminding that, in April 2016, his first wife, Michelle McNamara, tragically passed away in her sleep at the age of 46.
“It’s too soon,” they typed, firing their emotional bullets off into cyberspace. Many added that Oswalt’s relationship with Salenger made them feel “uncomfortable” – and some even dared to suggest that his new engagement was “disrespectful” to the widower’s late wife.
All of this vitriolic hatred, negativity, and narrow-mindedness has inspired Erica Roman – who lost her own partner within three days of McNamara’s death – to write a piece about the hate the couple were receiving.
In the essay, Roman explains that she and Oswalt have been processing their sense of loss and heartbreak at the same time – and that watching the comedian deal with his feelings in such a public way helped to inspire her and feel less alone in her grief.
Now, though, she’s over-the-moon that Oswalt has been able to expand his heart and love someone else. And she’s absolutely furious that social media trolls have dared to try and make him feel guilty about it, too.
“You aren’t entitled to an opinion,” she writes. “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.”
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Roman continues: “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.”
She finishes by saying: “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.”
Oswalt was touched by Roman’s support, and shared her blog post in a Twitter post of his own.
“This is so amazing. And SO well-written,” he wrote. “I expected some bitter grub worms to weigh in (anonymously, always always always) with their much-needed opinions when I announced my engagement last week. And I decided to ignore them. But yeah, I felt this rage. And Erica articulated it better than I could have ever hoped. So there you go. Thank you, Erica.”
Salenger also shared the link on Twitter and assured her followers Patton and Michelle’s friends and family were supportive, and that the former couple’s daughter Alice “feels loved”.
“I have waited 47 years to find true love,” she said. “Creating our family unit while honoring the brilliant gift Michelle has given me will be my life’s goal and happiness.
“I am deeply in love with both Patton and Alice and very much looking forward to a beautiful happy life having adventures together.”
You can (and should) read Roman’s powerful essay – titled A Widow’s Rage Defence of Patton Oswalt’s Engagement – in full on her blog, ericaroman.me, now.
Images: iStock / Rex Features