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February 9, 2011

Words Words Words


"He's in a better place."
"At least you have other children.”
"She's better off now/not in any pain."
"Where's your faith? You should be happy for him."
"God needed another flower in His garden."
"Time heals all things."
"You'll be better tomorrow."
"You can't stay sad the rest of your life."
"Your loved one wouldn't want yon to be so sad."
"You can have another baby."
"You were so happy together. Be grateful for that."
"At least he didn't suffer."
"She was so young.”
"You didn't really get to know her that well."
Words; just words. Often spoken in an attempt to ease the pain of grieving the death of someone we love.
But, instead of bringing relief, those words just seem to add to the hurt, the confusion, the anger, and the grief. There are no words that will make it all right that someone we loved has died. But there are words that can soothe the hurt, ease the loneliness and add to the healing.
I don't think people are trying to hurt grievers. They just seem to engage their mouths before their brains. Or maybe what they were planning on saying sounded pretty good in their heads, but by the time those words of hope made the journey from their minds to their mouths, something happened. And those words came out, sending hurt instead of hope across the space between us.
What are you trying to say? Are you trying to fill the silence between us, show how much you care or how much you know? Do you think words will help when a heart is broken?
Why do we hide behind words, any words, when a hug or a simple touch on the arm would say so much more? Have we forgotten the power of presence? Do we fear silence because it might mean we have nothing to say?
Why must a moment between friends be filled with noise or empty platitudes or meaningless sounds of hollow comfort? Why can't two people simply be in the presence of each other, allowing that great strength to flow between them without any words to interrupt the message?
"You can have another baby."
"You were so happy together. Be grateful for that."
"At least he didn't suffer."
"She was so young. You didn't really get to know her that well."
ARRRGGG! Words! Words! Words meant to help that only add to the hurt. Give me silence, please! Not emptiness ... silences. Not loneliness ... Silence. Don't not come, but come silently. Sit on my couch, hold my hand, share a cookie, hand me a tissue. Come, but leave your words of hollow hope behind. No words can speak more eloquently than the shared silence of presence. Come sit beside me. Hold me. Touch me.
Be with me, but leave the noise behind.
Are we afraid that silence will kill us? Are we afraid that we will say "the wrong thing"? (What is the right thing?) Are we afraid that we will "remind" the bereaved of their loss? (Do you think we will ever forget it?)
"Time heals all things."
"You'll be better tomorrow."
"You can't stay sad the rest of your life."
"Your loved one wouldn't want you to be so sad.”
If only I could think of something to say in return! But my mind as well as my body and soul have gone numb. I am frozen and I can't think of anything to say. Sometimes I am so shocked that I cannot believe I heard what you said, or maybe you don't even realize what you said.
"Be happy she's healed now."
" Why are you so sad?"
" We have gathered here to not to mourn the loss of…But rather to celebrate his life."
Words; Just words. You'd think they wouldn't hurt so much, but they do. Sometimes it really is better not to say anything. That doesn't mean don't do something ... it means don't use words to fill up the space that sadness occupies. By all means, do something! Bring flowers, a casserole (not tuna, please), chocolate cookies, napkins, paper towels. Come help with the laundry, the childcare, the mail, the dusting. Drop off a ham, a turkey, a hug. Send a note, a lemon meringue pie, and a donation to my loved one's favorite charity.
Slip a note into my pocket, a card in my mailbox, a hand into my empty one.
Share a memory, a laugh, and a moment. Tell me stories of the past; bring me pictures from your scrapbook. Speak of love, not sorrow. Remember the life, not just the death. Give me hope, not meaningless words.
Hug me, hold me, love me, leave me, but don't shower me with words that are meant to soothe, but sear instead. Your presence really is the healing touch. No words need be spoken between friends and family when love is the weaver of the threads.
"He's in a better place."
(I thought right next to me was a pretty good place)
"At least you have other children."
(Yes, but I really loved that one, too.)
"She's better off now... not in any pain."
(She may be out of pain, but I'm not!)
"Where's your faith? You should be happy for him."
(My faith may help my heart feel better, but it's my arms that are empty and aching.)
"God needed another flower in His garden."
(What about MY garden?!)
"You can have another baby."
(Maybe, but no one can replace someone)
"You were so happy together. Be grateful for that."
(I am grateful, but I want more!)
"At least he didn't suffer."
(Yes, that's true, but I am suffering now.)
"She was so young. You didn't really get to know her that well."
(Since when does age have anything to do with how much someone is loved?)
"Time heals all things."
(Time does nothing except pass. It is what you do with the time that might change things.)
"You'll be better tomorrow."
(Perhaps, but what about today?)
"You can't stay sad the rest of your life."
(Oh yes I can)
"Your loved one wouldn't want you to be so sad.”
(How do you know? I have told my loved ones that I expect at least three days of heavy grieving. After that, they can do whatever they wish. But I do want them to be sad... at least a little bit!)
"Be happy she's healed now."
(That may be true, but it is still my heart that is broken ... my arms that are empty. What about me?)
" Why are you so sad?"
(Oh, I don't know ... maybe it's because someone I loved has died.)
"We have gathered here to not to mourn the loss of. … But rather to celebrate his life."
(The thought here is nice, but the timing seems a bit "off." I am not quite ready to celebrate. I think I need some grieving time, too.)
Words. Just words. Let them fall to the wayside when you hear words that do not quite touch the pain or hit the mark. Realize that someone is tying to reach you, soothe you, and comfort you. So what if their choice of words falls short of the goal or even brings a moment or two of pain? At least someone cares enough to keep trying! And the sounds of silence are even worse than the words that come wrapped in good intentions and tied with a silly looking bow.
I'll take your comfort any way you can share it with me. But maybe the best words to say are simply, "I'm here and I don't have a clue as to how to help, but I'm here, and together we'll figure this thing out.

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