I’m a talker; I believe that words are powerful. A person can be placed on the highest pedestal or reduced to nothing by just a few words.
During the course of my hardships and illnesses, I have learned that the only thing as powerful as words is silence.
Sometimes, words can’t match the healing power of silence; sometimes, words are too much, and not nearly enough.
Nine years ago, I had three miscarriages in less than a year. The first startled me, the second shook me, and the third shattered me. I felt like any minute I would drop dead from the grief. I didn’t realize the pain could possibly be worse until I learned that each precious baby had smothered in my body due to a previously undetected clotting disorder.
After each loss, there were many calls, visits and even cards. There were so many words of encouragement. I appreciate every person and every kind word, but at the time, it all seemed so empty. So often, it felt as if people were rehearsing a script that was designed to bring them comfort. I knew I was loved, but there was no magic phrase to bring my children back.
A few days after the final miscarriage (which ended my attempts to have any more children), I called my friend Steph. Steph lived nearly an hour away, and had gone through similar a year prior. The best I could do was give a brief account of the miscarriage, then I just cried. I felt so bad for completely losing it as she sat there. I ended the call, sat on my couch and sobbed. No one was home. No one could see me. I opened up the floodgates.
About an hour later, my front door opened, and there stood Steph. Quietly, she sat down next to me, wrapped her arms around me, and cried. Not a word was spoken. Nothing. We cried for my babies and her babies and all of the children that had left a hole in the heart of an excited and expectant mother. I don’t know how long we sat there; it was a long time. Finally, Steph got up and left. Not one word passed between us.
In that silence, I heard ” I understand.” “I love you.” “I hate this.” “You will be OK.”
Just over a year ago, I asked my friend Shaun to sit with me through yet another complicated, painful, horrible infusion. After five hours, the infusion was complete, and I was miserable. I was nauseated, my whole body hurt, and I was angry that at 43 years old I was damned to a life filled with these treatments. As Shaun drove me home, I began to cry. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. Wordlessly, my friend reached over and gently took my hand in his; he didn’t let go until we reached my house. In those quiet moments, Shaun’s actions said to me “I’m here.” “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” “It will get better.”
There were no words that could make it any better, and my friend instinctively knew that.
So often, our pain doesn’t require appeasing or distraction; it requires reverence; an almost sacred regard for our suffering.This is the exact opposite of what most of us have been told throughout or lives. I grew up hearing “Just one kind word can go a long way” and other similar beliefs. Those things are often true, but not always.
Sometimes, there are no helpful words. Sometimes, silence is all there is. And that’s OK.
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