Is "I almost had a heart attack!" or "You almost gave me a heart attack!", insensitive?

That’s a valid interpretation.

I was just thinking about something similar this morning. The book I’m reading (listening to I should say) has a character that lost her teenage son, an only child, to suicide. It’s now 20 years later and she sees someone her age, a stranger, at the grocery store with a toddler in the grocery cart. The stranger starts gushing about her grandbaby and how wonderful it is to be a grandma and asks the woman if she has any grandkids. She just says - no. The whole time she’s thinking about how she will never have grandkids. This all makes her extremely sad.

It made me think of how often we all talk to people and mention things but we would have no idea that we could be causing sadness or anger. We can’t know everything about everyone. If we start censoring everything we talk about, we won’t be talking to anyone at all. We all have things we find sensitive, we all have some unhappiness in our lives, we all have tragedies, we will all eventually lose someone close to us. It’s part of life. It would be a pretty bland life if we couldn’t joke or gush about something that makes us happy.

My dad had cancer and was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

His favorite joke from that point on?

“I’ve got some bad news and some bad news.”
“Ok, doc, what’s the bad news?”
“I’m afraid you have cancer.”
“Oh, no, what’s the other bad news?”
“You have Alzheimer’s.”
“Well, at least I don’t have cancer.”

In the broadcasting industry, the signal from off-mike that you are out of time is a throaT-slashing gesture. Quelle horreur!

My father died when his throat was slashed in a recording session you insensitive clod.

If someone were actually making fun of someone who had a heart attack, mimicking turning blue and gasping for breath, then I could see you might be a little upset. But being offended by someone using a common metaphor sounds like you were just waiting for someone to offend you. There are loads of these kinds of expressions. We are, as a society, trying to get rid of the ones that are based on demeaning images (like calling someone a “retard” when they make a mistake) but “almost had a heart attack,” “almost died laughing,” “split a gut” are here to stay and have no ill intent.

I’m pitting you for lying.

My father died after being thrown into a pit, you bastard.

Steve Hughes (Australian comedian) has a nice line:

'I was asked me if I was offended by what someone had said. My reply was ‘Initially, I thought I should be, but then I remembered I was a grown-up and got over it’.

He should have known better than to ask the Spartans for earth and water.

I understand people who think these comments are insensitive, and I also understand people who aren’t bothered by them.

My personal preference is that these comments are problematic because they aren’t true. I try to avoid exaggeration whenever I can. People get so used to exaggerating that it can become difficult to emphasize the things that really need to be emphasized.

I believe you when you tell me how delicious that dinner was, but I assure you, it was NOT “to die for.”

You sound like you’re fun at parties.

What is data hoarding?

I’m with you and I’ve been reminded how trite sounding some things coming out of
my mouth must’ve sounded to the person I was talking to. Her mom had a degenerative disease and I wish I could recall what I said in the course of a little small talk but it came off a little insensitive as soon as I said it. Weird.

When shit happens it hurts and hearing flippant remarks about it can also hurt.

A Thai restaurant here in Honolulu is called To Thai For. I assume you won’t be eating there.

My mother would use a different sentence: “You scared me out of ten years’ growth!”

I agree with you about the gushing. What I think is more important here is that joking or trivializing, especially out of habit as a means of expression, is insensitive and maybe a bit hurtful, and there’s not much reason to do so. In the heart attack example, someone is expressing that they were very startled, and it’d be fine to just say they were very startled. There are easily tens of millions of people who lost somebody they care about to a heart attack. Does bringing up that kind of death or illness really help expressing surprise?

If it didn’t help express surprise I don’t think it’d be such a common idiom.

And that’s insensitive to the main character in “The Tin Drum.”
See, you can’t win.