Don’t Be Afraid to Scream

Don’t Be Afraid to Scream

By Cynthia Toussaint.

In October I lost the man who, next to John, was the most important male figure in my life. In fact, Dick was my surrogate father for 25 years. The grieving is “ginormous” as Dick would say, but the blessings make that pale in comparison.

I learned about Richard Freed from one of the brilliant movies he produced. It’s called Wildflower and was premiering on Lifetime in the early 90’s. Dick insisted on casting a young, unknown actress named Reese Witherspoon for this film that tenderly told the story of a disabled girl who was abused by her family. This was tough material told with sublime grace.

After seeing the film, I knew I had to meet the gentle person who made it. I found Dick’s production company in the Hollywood Creative Directory and reached out with my own story. He called and we immediately hit it off. Though our film project hit a snag and we parted ways, I couldn’t let this loving, brilliant man go.

When Christmas card time rolled around, I called Freed-Laufer Productions and recognized Dick’s smile-inducing voice. Pretending I was an assistant for a big Hollywood talent agency, I coyly said I was doing my end-of-year Rolodex address checking. Dick being Dick asked who I was. When I confided, we had a good laugh over my spunk, something we both possessed in spades. In that exchange we recognized each other’s risk-taking for making our passions happen - and from that point on, we never looked back.

Cynthia Toussaint

Dick and I teamed up and worked steadily on multiple fronts. We fought the HMO that didn’t want my story told. Dick was a founding Board member of For Grace and indefatigable with ideas to help women in pain. He taught me how to write and edited my entire memoir, one…word…at a time. He always had another notion to share, and I forever asked his advice and confided everything. We often spoke many times a day, and would work for five, even six hours at a stretch. In my life of pain and isolation, Dick was always there. In fact, for about a decade, when next to no one checked in, he was my lifeline.

Dick could take anything. When I spoke to him about my loneliness, suffering and suicidal thoughts, he gently and firmly reminded me that I made the world a richer place – and that he, for one, was deeply grateful for the gifts I bestowed. I believe there’s a good chance I, and possibly John, wouldn’t be here today if not for Dick’s love.

John and I were happy and excited to attend Dick and his beloved “bride” of 60 years vow-renewal at their breathtaking Northern California home in July of last year. I’ll never forget the sparkle in his eyes when he first saw us. He forever compared his union with Kathy to John and mine, marveling at the joy we were both so blessed to have. That was the last time I saw Dick.

As if he knew what was coming, Dick’s health began to fail just after. He was hospitalized several times and his 90-year-old body was racked with pain. I kept talking to Dick, but not nearly as often as he was difficult to reach between hospital, rehab and home.

Then one night Dick called to say good-bye. As his gorgeous words spilled out, I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was unthinkable that this man, so loving of life, could leave this world, could leave me. I found myself writing down his words… as I had done sooo many times before. They were always gold.

After his passing, I looked at those notes, and at the very bottom was written, “I think the main thing is, don’t be afraid to scream.”

I’ll never know exactly what Dick meant, and that’s part of the gift he intended to leave. He provided the occasional soulful riddle to unlock. I believe Dick was speaking to my pain in its various forms – and that I shouldn’t be afraid to be honest and show my emotion.

So often we women in pain are told to button it up, to shut it down, to make pretty so as not to make others uneasy. Dick was that special someone who could always hear it all, not out of duty of family or intimacy of spouse. He was just that extraordinary.

I hope that for the holiday season each of us has that special someone who we can be unconditionally unfiltered with, who we can tell it as it is.

This will be the first year I won’t get a call from Dick at 12:01 New Year’s morning. He would wish me a happy New Year’s Eve birthday, always the first person I spoke with in hopes of beginning a healthier year. That call made me feel safe.

Perhaps this year I’ll let out a scream at midnight. I am heartbroken, but filled with immense gratitude for having loved someone so much that it’s so damned hard to say good-bye.

As Dick ended every call with me… “bless us all…”

Cynthia Toussaint is founder of For Grace, a Los Angeles-based non-profit that works on issues facing women in pain. She is also a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Cynthia Toussaint founded For Grace in 2002. It is a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization dedicated to bringing awareness to gender disparity in the treatment of pain. She is also a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Mark Ibsen

Screaming is the only option for some.
Just gotta get the energy for it….

I feel that now, even more so than ever before, we need to be there for one another, we need to be AVAILABLE to one another, to ensure that no one else has to feel so alone that their screams cannot be heard. If we cannot act as supportive “sponsors” the way the folks in AA can be then we’re already doomed and damned. If there is some support group that is a little more hands-on than just an online message board, I would love to join. (Not that I discredit groups like ours here. I take great comfort in and find deep solace here. I would simply like the opportunity to help more immediately and directly.) We must acknowledge that we MUST band together, and not figuratively, if we are to be heard.

No one screams alone anymore.

Sandi Camp

Thank you for sharing your tender story about Dick. I was deeply touched, Cynthia.


What a beautiful friendship you have shared with us, Cynthia. We all need someone special in our lives to lift us up when we slide too close to the black hole of dispair.

Because your focus in sharing your story was this amazing friendship, you touched many hearts.

I had to google your memoir, and am sharing it with readers who may not be aware (as I was).

Battle for Grace: A Memoir of Pain, Redemption and Impossible Love
ISBN-13: 978-1482592047, ISBN-10: 1482592045

I found your book available on Amazon…

Wishing all a gentle, joyful Holiday! I’ll be celebrating Christmas with my daughter and her family, who moved me in with them 4 years ago. #abundantlyblessed


Heartwarming, he sounds like an incredible person.

I’m so sorry for your loss, he sounds like a wonderful person. Yes, I believe it is time for all of us CP patients to “scream.” Sometimes you’re not heard otherwise.

Nancy Wilson

This brought me to tears. So many times I just needed someone to truly hear my pain and fear, that I just “wanted to scream”. You were blessed to have an angel in your life. God bless

Thank you for sharing

Rachael Elisabeth Hall

I will continue to scream, cry and blaspheme for all of us who suffer in agony, directly. I scream for those of us who suffer in agony because we watch, a helpless, hopeless, voiceless vigil. And I scream for those of us, dying, and those suffering a different sort of agony altogether because we have someone who loves US, someone who will NEVER turn away from us and, as such, they themselves become victims of this disgusting, and disgustingly obviously discriminatory witch hunt. All because they love.

For all of us, I’m sorry. For my Michael, I am so fortunate and to him, I am so sorry. Above all, I am thankful for his love which gives me strength enough to scream another day.

Rachael Hall
Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
Chronic pain

Steven Smith

Cognitive behavior therapy ie thinking your way out of pain or befriending it, yoga, exercise and your doctor threatening detox now take the place of what used to be medication and relief. Like it’s our fault for our genetic makeup . How much more pain can we possibly endure? If you report more pain you get even less medication yet. Sorry for your loss. Too sad a story.

Eleanor Drewniak

Ibin, I fear you are correct. It is becoming politically “incorrect “ to support pain medication for people experiencing chronic pain. Without my medication I would be bedridden. I do not want to go through that again.

Eleanor Drewniak

Helpful in so many ways. Thank you.

Maureen Mollico

Cynthia, Thank you for sharing with us such a beautiful person in your life.
Your post brought me to tears since I have lost people similar to Dick, in my own life. Specifically speaking for now, living in pain does warrant having ‘a special person’ to whom we can reach out to or receive their advising words, receive their love and find comfort, if even for a moment in a phone call. This is something so many of us do not have.
I spent the 1st 10 years of my life in chronic pain all alone, without ‘a person’ and without support. I still seek it…but Ive fought deep within and have become stronger emotionally.
Therefore, yes, you have been immensely blessed to have had ‘very special Richard’ and his beautiful wife in your life, on your journey.
Your emotional pain will lessen in time but his presence in your heart will forever and beautifully continue to feed your spirit.
Merry Christmas and Happy early Birthday to you.
Many blessings in the New Year to you and John for all that you do on our behalf.
Maureen Mollico


Sorry for your loss, Cynthia. What a blessing Dick was in your life.


Thank you Cynthia, your story touched me in ways that I can’t explain and not sure that I understand.


I damn well intend to scream, at the deceitful pursuit of those manipulating pain management into cash, i.e, “addiciton treatment”, and to the dot/gov elect and appointed that are listening to them
I am sure that Philllip “Philp” Kuykendahl, a native in my county, my town, a 64 year old man, a patient with intractable pain that took his own life, almost a year ago on December 29th, 2016 after atetmpting to find some relief from his continuous pain through logical and even unconventional technics, (no illicit substances) failed……to find compassion. I knew Phillip, we were about the same age although, not a close friend but, this town is so small that at one time you could not simply drive into town without seeing more people you “knew”, than you didn’t know
.I can relate to the difficulty he had in his attempt to simply manage his intractable pain hrough “professional”. heathcare. I am sure his family are sadddened this time of year becuase of the route he was forced to take.
Yeah, I am gonna scream. It may cost me “trouble” but, trouble is nothing knew to all of us now. I don’t have much to lose but, I do have…a better, more productive life to gain and to have it more abundantly when we win.
I realize that dealing with pain can make me very emotional but, I intend to focus the emotion upon those that don’t seem to have any…… any longer.. The elect and appointed are being paid because they “promised” to represent ALL the people in this country.
It will take a “rally” to educate the good people that still care, paid or not paid by dot/gov and there are still enough people that believe persecution of the innocent is wrong.
Shout it, shout it shout it out loud.

Diane Baldine

So sorry for your loss. He sounded like a great man.