Justifying Actions

I just wrote an angry rant.  As I was getting set to publish it, someone tweeted me about something unrelated.  They wrote that in order for people, who may be feeling desperate, to hear what you (the universal/general you) have to say, there is a need for kindness, and it stopped me in my tracks.  Kindness…  In my fury I had forgotten all about kindness and I felt like a balloon that had just been popped. Pfssssst…  All that lovely anger that was protecting me from all those other feelings I have, oozed out.  Pffffffssssst.  And you know what I was left with?  Sadness.  Overwhelming sadness and something else.  Fear.  Tremendous fear.

Sadness and fear do not make me feel powerful.  Instead they make me feel vulnerable.  I don’t like feeling sad and vulnerable.  I want to feel powerful, but all of these things are illusions at best.  Just because I feel powerful does not make it so.  Just because I feel vulnerable does not mean I am.

Someone wrote on a public forum that they were heart-broken over a mother who tried to kill herself and her child.  They followed that thought with this, “she was given a burden she could not bear” and I felt like someone had kicked me in the solar plexus.  You see, I take those words personally.  They may as well have said that they believed that about one of my children.  Please, please, do not say a child, any child is a burden.  Even if you believe this to be true, do not say those words in public.  Do not.  This is what private support groups are for. This is why people see psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, this is why we call close friends whom we love and trust and who we know will honor what we say in confidence and keep what we say confidential.  In moments of terrible pain all of us can and do say things that upon further reflection we wish we hadn’t.  We think things we do not really believe in moments of upset.  We may even act on these things that we think and say, these are the times we wish we’d said and done nothing.

Not every feeling must be acted upon.  Not every thought needs to be said out loud.  Please, when you say someone’s child is a burden and that it was too great to bear and that this was why they tried to kill that child, it places a stigma on all our children.  This kind of language terrifies me.  I am terrified someone who believes Autistic children are a burden will come into contact with my child and treat her accordingly.  Please if you believe Autistic children are a burden, if you feel their neurology makes them inferior, do not go into the field of autism.  Do not convince yourself that you will be able to help that person, you won’t.  Feeling sorry and pity will not help or make that person’s life better.  In addition, when we believe another person is a “burden” it is being suggested that there are situations when it is acceptable to not be held responsible for what we say and do.  It is being suggested that, to hurt someone we believe is a burden, or worse, take that person’s life, is a reasonable thing to do.  It’s not.  It’s not okay.  We cannot, in our desire for compassion, allow this to ever be okay.   It is not okay.

Finally, if you truly believe someone, whether it is your child, someone else’s child or just in general, is a burden, please talk about these feelings and thoughts with a professional or someone you trust who can help you work through these beliefs with compassion and care.  If you do not know where to turn or do not understand why this kind of thinking is problematic, email me privately so that I can try to better explain or can find someone who will be able to explain this in a way you can hear.  My email is:  emmashopeblog@gmail.com

20 responses to “Justifying Actions

  1. How well said. No child is a “burden” even when a parent sees it that way. That label is all about the parent and how they perceive their child and their world. Parenting is difficult under the best circumstances. ANY parent could choose to focus on the difficult aspects of parenting and choose to label their child a “burden.” Children who are non-verbal, or confined to wheelchairs or are violent or have other issues without a doubt make parenting exponentially difficult. And guess what? The same things happen in old age, or when people have severe illnesses, or crippling accidents. All those people can be looked on as “burdens” by their parents, children, relatives, friends or caretakers..or they could be seen as loved ones in need of more help than most.

    And so, you can choose to seek more help.

    • Corbett Joan OToole

      I agree with your point however I would like to suggest a different term when you refer to people like me who use wheelchairs. I am not confined to my wheelchair any more than you are confined to your car or bicycle. I ride my wheelchair or use my wheelchair. It is a tool. It is not a restraint system. Thanks for thinking about this.

    • I am incredibly grateful I was taught that helping others was less about helping them and more about helping me! Helping others is what we do so that we can look in the mirror and like who we see. Helping others is not a burden, it’s a gift. A gift that other person is giving us.

  2. I think a big problem nowadays is we, as a society, no longer believe there is any social responsibility to take care of each other, to care. We have become a “me” society and as such we have devalued each other. A truly healthy society is one that cares about each other and is there to listen and help each other. I watched a very short documentary the other night called, “We Thought You’d Never Ask: Voices of People With Autism” and one young man with Autism stated that he would get along better in this world if more people had manners. Maybe that is where we need to start – manners, and evolve, once again from there, into what it means to respect and care about each other.

  3. What makes this case scary is that the mom had tried so hard to get help. I believe our health care/ insurance industry in their refusal to cover full treatments contributed more to Kelli’s flight from sanity than her daughter’s autism ever could have.

    • Alice – I gather that the mom *did* have help, including a residential treatment from which her daughter had just returned, aides, etc. She may not have been able to obtain what she considered sufficient help — I can relate to that, though I am currently fairly privileged in that respect — but there parents who have far less resources to care for their disabled children who do *not* murder them. While I am completely in favor of greater availability of services — and especially and primarily services that are designed to help the disabled individual rather than their family, though from personal experience I completely understand the need for respite care — even mentioning the need for services in the same space as expressing understanding for a murderer distorts the issue. Let us call for more services, but not link that in any way to an individual who chose, premeditatedly, to murder their own child.

      • I had no intent of expressing “understanding” for Kelli. I’m simply pointing out that she in no way presented as someone who would choose this path. It’s certainly an uncomfortable topic, but what the root cause is must be addressed. Maybe it wasn’t a lack of services…I don’t know, but finding out what led up to that horrible choice is important in making sure it doesn’t happen again. One thing that is most important from my point of view is that Autism doesn’t take the blame.

      • Right. Many people have no “services” or very few and yet they do not kill.

  4. This is a great point Ariane. In this day and age of social media…people can say just about whatever the hell they want and feel no repercussions. It is up to us to change that.

  5. Based on how Emma us doing one day she will indeed encounter someone who has the kind of views about autism you wish would vanish or she would forever be protected from. That need not terrify you though as you and RIchard have given her a strong foundation of what the truth is and when she checks what some random person says about her against what her whole life has told her she will with any luck just dismiss it.

    For me because that was not the case some of it hurts at times when I am vulnerable. Who knows maybe when Emma is vulnerable it will hurt more than other times when she might possess the strength to challenge it but those people and those attitudes are not going anywhere fast.

    It wasn’t in my opinion autism that caused this. A parent did not use the resources they actually had and for whatever reason thought this was preferable. It may have made sense to them at the time. I get terribly depressed and i am no stranger to things seeming rational one day that seem ridiculous the next. I do hope for mercy for the parent not because she faced a “terrible burden” not because she was somehow screwed over by the state or whomever but because she is a person who did an awful thing and has to live with that.

    • Thanks for your kind words regarding Em, Gareeth. I so hope you are correct. I marvel at her self confidence, though I am not comfortable taking any credit for that, I do love seeing it and encourage it with lots of cheering and joy!

  6. Empathy is a normal human trait..Empathy does not equal condoning horrible human behavior…Love is all that matters in the end.. and empathy is always part of ‘true’ love no matter how serious the crime may be…

    Unfortunately… not everyone is strong enough to love like this..and the reaction is often hate instead of love..

    I’m not quite sure why people have to do this..but I guess maybe it is at least in part my autism that allows me never to feel hatred or personal judgement against other human beings no matter what the mistake they make in life is..

    I do not ever meet the type of autistic people in real life that express this type of hatred against their fellow human beings that make mistakes..it is not a type of autism I either understand or share with those autistic people in real life…so yes I do feel empathy for this parent who fell to the dark side of human nature and feel even more empathy that it is horrible that any child should ever have to suffer at their parents hands…or voice… but Love is love..true love that is…it has no conditions ever…

  7. I just wrote a similar thing today – about how I cared for my father before he died. http://www.onequartermama.ca/2013/09/being-burden.html
    Taking care of anyone can be difficult. It can also not be fun. But that doesn’t justify anything at all. And my father was even abusive to me. I never thought of killing him!

  8. Killing someone is such an active thing. Overcoming the human repulsion to killing another human being takes more than just desperation and rage, or else more people would be killers. Furthermore, planning a method for it makes it such an active decision. That’s not in the heat of the moment. It takes forethought to gather the means to suffocate yourself and someone else together in a vehicle, and it takes determination to overcome the repulsion to killing and carry out the act. That’s why the law acknowledges a difference between premeditated crimes and crimes of passion.

    The mother did, indeed, need help she wasn’t getting. But that help was, as far as I can tell, for herself. Bless you, Ariane, for reaching out as you have, offering a way for others to find that kind of help. It’s one thing, when someone is violent by choice and another acts in self defense, to not blame the defender for the attack having happened or for the action taken in defense (as with rape, for example). It’s another to fail to recognize that a child can sometimes lash out, due to a loss of control associated with confusion, overload, and frustration at being unable to connect and communicate about what’s wrong or escape the source of the pain, and that the parent involved might need help learning the tools to cope with this – a failure which causes the child to be blamed for whatever the response of the parent may be, including murdering the child.

    Parents who kill their children are suffering, and they do need help. Acknowledging this is not the same as excusing the murder or blaming the child. Parents are human. They have their own problems and shortcomings. Most would never put their kids or themselves to death, whatever difficulties their families may experience. Maybe more needs to be done to help identify those who are at risk of such a thing, especially since they may not be able to recognize that risk within themselves or may not realize where it really comes from or what it means. Long before murder becomes the issue, in fact, many parents may need help to find ways to avoid escalating things when their kids are starting to lose control and to give themselves relief when they’re at some kind of limit of their own. Much abuse on the part of parents could be averted this way, and it would also eventually help the kids to learn to mange better. This can only happen, though, if a change in society’s attitude occurs to a sufficient degree about various things, from what it means to have an autistic child and what an autistic’s life is worth to what people think about a parent who seeks help when their own behavior is at risk of becoming violent (which is a brave and smart thing to do, not something to be ashamed of).

  9. i take those words personally too I can’t believe someone would say that about a child people who are different have things to contribute to the world too look at RJ Mitte.

  10. Pingback: Behaviour is Communication; Violence is Behaviour | tagAught

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