The “Be grateful” line extended to those I met in support groups and rehab too. More often than not, I was told by wives whose husbands had more symptoms, to be grateful because Jason wasn’t abusive, cheating on me, an alcoholic, in diapers, and because he could walk, talk, be left alone. Those women? They can kind of get away with the be grateful line, because they at least are dealing with some pretty hard challenges.
I would still argue, that just because they can get away with it, does not make it the best response. It is a response that shuts down any sense of compassion or drive to share experiences. To me, the be grateful line as used above, signals “this is hard, and we don’t do hard stuff, so look on the bright side”. It doesn’t say “come, talk. I’ve lived through this and you will too, I will help you.” We know we are remarkably “lucky” for the TBI crowd, and responses like “be grateful” have limited our willingness to reach out. It’s hard to go into a support group and hear that just because we have it better, means we shouldn’t be getting support.
The friends we have made since Jason’s TBI, can all, do hard stuff. I might tear up while telling a story, or we ask to celebrate ridiculous things like have disability approved the same night they celebrate expecting a baby. And they are okay with that, they don’t shy away from the hard stuff, and I admire them so much.
The people we’ve met that respond to hard stuff with “be grateful” stay in the acquaintance zone. Talk about the weather, talk about their kids. There’s no way to forge a real friendship (or even continue one if they used to be close friends) if we can’t talk about our life and have some sense of being heard. Our hard stuff, and our successes, look different from our friends’ at this stage in our life. That’s just the way it goes.