February 5, 2017 Sunday
While it was I who first started calling this our stroke of luck, I have not felt lucky. It isn’t luck that creates a clot in your beloved’s brain, killing off a very real part of him. It isn’t luck that has him relearning things he’s spent 66 years doing.
Yet, a couple of times, I have spoken of my fears and uncertainties only to be met with some form of “you’re lucky he isn’t worse off…..”
I would caution the use of the word ‘lucky’ when speaking to caregivers of stroke survivors.
I understand what is being said. I know it could’ve been worse. I know some have had strokes that are more debilitating. I get that.
But you see, when he was paralyzed on the left side, we didn’t know he’d recover. When he was having additional strokes we didn’t know when they’d stop. When we were in the midst of it we didn’t know anything. We just knew that his body…his friend of 66 years…had turned on him.
We certainly did not feel lucky.
In addition, he is way underinsured so outpatient rehab isn’t covered at all. Doctor’s visits are not covered at all. Meds are not covered at all.
So you see, we don’t feel lucky.
One more thing, no one knows what else may or may not be going on in our lives that we might be dealing with simultaneously. Oh sure, maybe our stroke seems like a cake walk to you, but maybe the rest of your life looks like a cake walk to us. We have layers upon layers of stuff going on. I never assume anyone just has the stroke on their plate, I appreciate when others don’t assume the stroke is the only thing on ours either.
What we as humans do is project and superimpose. We project that what we see of other people’s lives is representative of their entire lives, when in fact it may be as little as 3% of their lives. We project that the rest of their lives is perfect OR it is at least as good as ours. So you see our stroke and think, ‘if only ours was that minor, our life would be so much better off’ not seeing the rest of the picture. What you did was take our stroke, superimpose it onto your life and assumed that would be our life. That just isn’t reality.
Saying one should feel lucky because the damage of the stroke is minimal is like telling a physically abused woman she should feel lucky she wasn’t killed. Or a mentally abused woman that she should feel lucky she wasn’t physically abused. Or a war veteran that he’s lucky he wasn’t killed like his friend, or lost a limb like another…
No one feels very lucky in circumstances like these. Grateful it wasn’t worse, yes, but never lucky.
When one says ‘you are so lucky’ in response to hearing your full story, it comes off as supportive, empathetic and kind. It is often another word for ‘miracle’ and that is so totally NOT the use of luck I am referencing.
When one says ‘you should feel lucky that _____’ in response sharing your emotions, that is a ‘shut down’. It makes the recipient feel as though they don’t have a right to feel the way they are feeling right that minute because someone else might have it worse.
I’m not saying that anyone MEANS it to sound like that. I’m just talking about communication and doing a PSA to let you know what you are doing to the person you just told should feel lucky.
There are three aspects to communication; 1) what is meant, 2) what is said and 3) what is heard.
When you speak you are responsible for the first two parts of the communication, by saying what you mean. When you are the listener you are responsible for what you hear. You have to be mindful that what you hear is going through its own filter and so you need to pay close attention to make sure what you heard is actually what was said.
That said, we do know that we are lucky…to have found each other and face each day together.