Glenda Prins wrote her memoir, Lessons from Katherine, to describe her journey from grief to acceptance of daughter Katherine. When Glenda and her husband Tom adopted Katherine, they did not know that she had disabilities. In time, they learned that she had cerebral palsy and probably also intellectual disability. Their grief arose not only from the challenges of caring for a child who was much different from the baby of their dreams, but also from dealing with hurtful comments made by other people. Her analysis of these common, hurtful comments is so keen that an extended quote is appropriate:
Nobody wants children to be born with profound disabilities. Nobody wants to see pain or sorrow. We attempt to fix the situation, deny its seriousness, and barring that, we turn away. Tom and I had already come through infertility. Adoption didn't cure our intertility; it simply allowed two disappointed partners an alternative way to create a family. But to the surrounding community, the 'problem' has been solved. Now we had a new tragedy to face, but this time there were no clear solutions.
So we heard things like 'It's good Katherine went to Tom and Glenda. They'll be able to handle this.' Translation: Thank God it wasn't me! Alternative translation: Don't look to me for help! I'm wiping my hands here. Or, from a family member who is also a pastor: 'I didn't walk until I was three and I'm fine now.' Translation: It's nothing; quit your bellyaching. In some encounters we were placed on pedestals and deified above ordinary mortals. In other scenarios, we were complainers, worrying about nothing. To others, we were simply losers. (pp. 28-29)
My wife and I have heard our share of platitudes through the years as well. Here's one we heard about our oldest daughter who has severe, multiple disabilities, "God allowed her to have disabilities, because he knew that having her would make you a better pastor.' Translation: Your daughter has challenges so that you can take better care of me.
Do you have a disability, or do you have a family member with disabilities? What platitudes have you heard? How would you translate them?