“There are no words to describe the horror of the last few hours…..” “I don’t have any words to describe…..” Phrases like these were repeated over and over as individuals tried to communicate their reactions to the devastating shooting that took place Friday at an elementary school in Connecticut. Yet, as my husband pointed out – these people kept talking. They were saying they “had no words”, yet they kept using words.
I realized – it wasn’t that they didn’t have any words – it was that they didn’t have the right words.
We have all been in that place of experiencing something and being at a loss for words. Our ability to communicate thoughts and feelings sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Many species can share information, but we have the ability to synthesize information and therefore communicate on a deeper level. Until our vocabulary lets us down. There was nothing to say – words were inadequate to express the pain of that loss.
Are there “right words” at such a time? The death of a loved one, a miscarriage, a critical illness, all these are situations that make us want to offer words of solace and hope. Yet it may be that there are no “right” words at these times.
I remember entering the home of my life-long friend after a terrible accident that claimed the life of her 18 month old son. I had no words. I fell into her arms and we hugged and cried. There were no “right” words – we wept and held on to each other, then sat holding hands – just needing to be in touch. I went home that night to my precious 18th month old daughter. My friend and her husband were left overwhelmed by the aching absence of their little son. All I had to offer at that time was my love demonstrated by my presence.
“God will work all things for good…..” “God is in control.” “God’s love will comfort you”. These are truthful statements – yet they are not comforting in light of the reality of the loss. They instead cause questions to arise – if God is in control – why did He allow my child to die? Wasn’t it “good” to have my child here with me? I wouldn’t need comfort if my child was still here!
Clichés and “pat answers” are not words that help when facing grief and suffering. I have had friends tell me that the most beneficial support was being there – not any words that were said.
The right words may be needed later – but expressing loving support through one’s presence and prayer is more valuable initially.
We do need to listen to one another. Many of us process situations by expressing verbally what we think and feel. Listening to those who are grieving provides an outlet for their grief and also a chance to remember the loved one who is gone.
1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
7 a time to be silent and a time to speak,
We don’t need to be so concerned about having the right words as being the loving support God wants us to be. May we recognize when to be silent and when to speak.
I follow a blog by Ruth Rutherford. This poem she wrote touched me – these were the right words for me at this time. – check it out – http://ruthrutherford.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/when-sunlight-fades-lord-have-mercy/