Illustration by the author, who borrowed the Peanuts’ likeness under Fair Use.
LUCY: Welcome to therapy, Charlie Brown. What brings you to my office today?
CHARLIE: ＊SIGH＊ My mother is in the hospital, Lucy, and she doesn’t have much time left. I don’t know what to do. I can’t lose her!
LUCY: You’re definitely going to lose her, blockhead. That’s the nature of life; everybody dies—except me, of course. I’m going to live forever.
CHARLIE: Gee, thanks for the kind words. I guess I’ll be going now.
LUCY: Don’t be such a quitter, Charlie Brown. You’re experiencing the first of the five stages of grief: denial. You need my help processing your mother’s death. I know you aren’t mentally or emotionally capable of doing it on your own.
CHARLIE: Oh, good grief!
LUCY: That’s right, now you understand! It’s a good thing that grief makes you feel bad. That means it’s working. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll feel terrible!
CHARLIE: I guess it’s worth a shot.
LUCY: Good. Now tell me why the idea of your mother dying is difficult for you to process.
CHARLIE: I can’t imagine life without her. Who will hug me when I’m sad and tell me, “Wah wah, wah wah wah! Wah… wah wah—wah?” Will I ever be happy again once she’s gone?
LUCY: No, probably not. You’re already a classic sad sack with very little going for you, and your mother is the only person in the world who loves you. But if you start to mentally prepare for the crushing loneliness now, you’ll be ready for life without her once she kicks it.
CHARLIE: How do I do that?
LUCY: Repeat after me: “I am an unlovable loser.”
CHARLIE: I am an unlovable loser.
LUCY: Congratulations, you’ve processed the first stage of grief!
CHARLIE: That’s it?
LUCY: That’s it. Now onto anger. Do you feel mad about your mother’s death?
CHARLIE: Who would I be mad at?
LUCY: Be mad at yourself, silly! If you were a better son, you’d be with your mom right now instead of talking to me. What if she dies this very moment?
CHARLIE: AAUGHH! You’re right, I should be there!
LUCY: But you aren’t. You should feel very guilty.
CHARLIE: I do.
LUCY: And very angry.
CHARLIE: I DO!!!
LUCY: Terrific! You just processed the second stage. Onto bargaining!
CHARLIE: Who am I bargaining with, God?
LUCY: Close—UnitedHealth! Your mother’s health insurance claim was denied, so you’ll be saddled with her massive medical debt unless you spend the next year of your life fighting with a massive for-profit company built on the backs of exploitation and suffering.
CHARLIE: That sounds terrible!
LUCY: It gets worse. I recently raised my session rates from 5¢ to $500, and now you owe me $8,297 including interest.
CHARLIE: What!? You never told me that. Can’t we work something out?
LUCY: I’m afraid not. It’s in the fine print.
LUCY: But there’s a bright side to all this.
CHARLIE: Finally! What’s the good news?
LUCY: You’re done bargaining! We can move on to your depression now.
CHARLIE: Well that’s a relief. I’ve never been more depressed in my entire life, and I can’t stand it. I just can’t stand it!
LUCY: Incredible! In that case, we can move right along to the final stage: acceptance.
CHARLIE: You’re not going to help me with my depression?
LUCY: Of course not, silly. That’s not my job! I’m just here to make sure you don’t skip any steps in the grieving process, otherwise you’ll never truly accept that despair and hopelessness will consume your every waking moment until you take your final breath.
CHARLIE: But I don’t want to feel despair and hopelessness! I want to enjoy my life.
LUCY: I’m afraid that isn’t possible, Charlie Brown. No one as pathetic as you can truly enjoy life. The sooner you get that through your thick skull, the better. But I guess we’ll have to save acceptance for next time, because our session is just about up. That’ll be $500!
CHARLIE: For what? I haven’t even finished processing my mom’s imminent death yet.
LUCY: Did you hear yourself just now?
CHARLIE: Hear what?
LUCY: You said “my mom’s imminent death.” You’ve finally admitted to yourself that she’s not long for this world!
CHARLIE: Hey… you’re right. I did!
LUCY: I’m proud of you, Charlie Brown. You may be a pathetic, sniveling, hopeless excuse for a human being, but at least you can accept that life is pain. You should be happy with all your hard work today.
CHARLIE: You know what? I am! I’ll get through this with friends like you, Lucy.
LUCY: Ha-ha! Don’t be silly, Charlie Brown. We aren’t friends. This is exclusively a business transaction.
CHARLIE: Well at least I have Sally and Linus. And Snoop—
LUCY: Time’s up! Now leave my office before I charge you for another hour.