Spiteful attacks against Daniel Morcombe’s mum
THIS week, Denise Morcombe, mother of murdered Sunshine Coast boy Daniel Morcombe, shared a simple and loving tweet on the day of her eldest son Dean's wedding.
"My boys are now grown up or gone … enjoy time with them," she wrote beside a picture of her three happy sons as little boys, playing in the snow.
For the most part, the response was warm. Daniel, with his sweet smile and beautiful blue eyes, is fiercely loved and mourned by most Australians. His parents, Denise and Bruce, have worked tirelessly to help prevent child abuse in all its forms. It's difficult to imagine any other family who Australians hold with such deep and honest affection.
Until we don't.
Because, with ghastly predicability, it wasn't long before Australia's amateur grief watchdogs made it clear in comment sections all over the internet that Mrs Morcombe had overstepped a line when it came to asking for Australia's sympathies. Australians, they rushed to remind her, have a firm limit to their compassion.
"This should have been (the wedding couple's) day, not mum milking the limelight," hissed one commenter. "Not nice, Denise. Selfish."
"It's disgusting how the dead kid takes the spotlight on a sibling's big day," snarled one man, a clear expert on the correct etiquette of special occasions when a loved one is no longer there.
"They love the limelight!" cried another, enjoying his triumphant Eureka moment. "That's why they did it!"
The Morcombes are far from the first grieving family to learn that while you may earn a place in Australia's hearts when something terrible happens to your child, you need to behave yourself to keep it.
Rosie Batty, whose son Luke was brutally murdered by his father in 2014, will know exactly how Mrs Morcombe must feel.
Once Australians recovered from their reflexive horror at Luke's death, we sharpened our daggers in the direction of Rosie's own recovery.
A thin, oily film of suspicion began to coagulate around our souls, and sour our opinions. Rosie, came the muttered chorus, isn't really our kind of victim.
She was a single mother.
She doesn't cry enough.
She should have done more to keep Luke away from his father.
She should have done more to let Luke see his father.
But the charge that is most frequently levelled at her is the same one that Denise Morcombe was forced to confront with her innocent tweet. A parent who remains in Australia's consciousness once the rest of us have moved on from our interest in their dead child must in some way be "on the take".
They're hungry for publicity, we think, eyes narrowed.
They've had their time in the limelight.
They've stayed their hour.
What exactly are they angling for, a place on Dancing With The Stars?
"Get out of the spotlight now!" is a typical example of a howl from an armchair grief expert back when Rosie was still working on tackling Australia's domestic violence epidemic via the Luke Batty Foundation.
Before she retreated from view earlier this year, battered and broken anew by Australia's boredom in her story. "You've milked your son's murder for all it's worth!"
"I'm sick of hearing about this woman!" screeched another. Because what could be more irritating than a mother trying to find some desperate shred of meaning in her son's death by preventing it happening to others.
Just yesterday Ms Batty reappeared in our Facebook feeds to announce her work with a new domestic violence initiative, Friends with Dignity. The nastiness was swift and relentless. More attacks, more doubt, more unwavering certainty that she was again using Luke's death for her own personal gain.
"Hell is other people," said the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He was wrong. The purest hell is losing a child. But you can count on other people to stoke hell's flames.
If you are someone who has taken to social media to attack a parent who has lost a child, you are vile.
If you have shared an airy snipe with a colleague about the way you think a grieving parent should behave, you are cruel.
If you have anything but the deepest, most respectful sympathies towards these families, and generous compassion towards whatever way they choose to express themselves in the crushing tidal waves of their grief, then you are dancing on their children's graves.
I hope you never endure the earthly hell that these families live with. But if the unearthly hell exists, I guarantee that's where you're going.