T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, but he was wrong.
For me and many of my friends, September was the cruelest month.
While every month has its bad days, it seemed that this September was full of them. Break-ups (a number of them completely unexpected), gravely sick children and parents, and even a suicide.
Sometimes words just aren’t enough—or at least they don’t seem like enough in some situations.
As a writer, I believe in the power of words.
Since I was young, words helped me make sense of a sometimes crazy word. They offered me comfort and hope. In a nutshell, I know well how words can make a huge difference in an individual’s life.
However, in those times when they don’t seem like enough, I retreat into silence, afraid that if I open my mouth I will just make things worse. Worse yet, I am afraid my words will ring hollow (ie. I am only saying this because it is expected of me).
I learned recently, when I was feeling lower than I had in a very long time, that I was wrong. Or rather, my expectations of what words could do was wrong.
No, they can’t take the pain away. They cannot magically fix things, nor in most cases will they allow a grieving person to see that things are going to get better.
Yet, that is not the point.
A kind, compassionate word or two (or even 20 for that matter) isn’t supposed to act as magic. It may not even be understood or heard except as a gurgle, but that’s okay.
The main importance of words is that they remind us we are not alone.
It sounds simplistic, but it is powerful.
When we are hurt, angry or in shock, it’s common to want to shut down and shun contact with others. It’s so common, in fact, that one of the symptoms of major depression is wanting to withdraw from others.
In this age of social media, where people frequently share their private trials and griefs, it can seem that we are connected and supported, but sometimes the very opposite is true. It’s one of the paradoxes of 21st century life: We are more connected than ever, thanks to our smartphones, computers, etc., yet many of us feel lonelier than ever.
Therefore, in those times when words simply aren’t enough, there is something to be said for saying them anyway.
I can remember more than one time when I felt I was in a hole with no way out, and the most helpful thing anyone ever did was talk to me. In many cases, I couldn’t recall what exactly was said, but I do remember knowing I was not alone.
Someone cared enough to reach out and that was enough.
Everything was going to get better, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Dar’ya Sip/Flickr