Stupid & Hurtful Things People Say

People say [unkind] things to relieve themselves of feelings of pain, anxiety, and loss, not to offer you any relief. It is, in fact, a denial of your humanity to say those things. Accepting it without response may keep the peace, but it won’t be your peace.

The Dying Time, by Joan Furman & David McNabb

People say stupid and hurtful things to the dying and their caretakers. They also say stupid and hurtful things after someone dies. 

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There is no such thing as a nervous breakdown.  This is why I didn’t have one.

I also didn’t have one because I’m a strong person. Very strong.

Another reason I didn’t have one, even when my daughter was dying, was that four years in graduate school equipped me to fend off and defend against all manner of psycholgoical and emotional traumas in myself and others. It was not possible to have a breakdown.

Finally (coming full circle), I couldn’t have a breakdown because breakdown is not a DSM-IV diagnosis and there is therefore no medicine for a breakdown, no capsule or prescription or take-two-and-call-me-later-rest-in-bed-it-will-get-better for a breakdown. Because there is no such thing as a nervous breakdown.

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Acting Weird is Not a Symptom

Listen up: acting weird is not a symptom. Just ask any emergency room nurse who has known your child for all of 30 seconds.

“What are her symptoms?”

“She’s acting weird.”

“What? Acting weird is not a symptom. What are the symppptommmms?” This, drawn out slowly and with empasis, as if Nurse Ratched is talking to an imbecile.

“She’s acting weeiirrdddd,” I respond. “And, for her, acting weird is a symptom. This is our fourth visit–”

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That was and still is the great disaster of my life–that lovely, lovely little boy. . . There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.

–Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), on the death of his first son at age three

My son, a perfect little boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, letter to Thomas Carlyle

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