It’s only words, but words are all I have

Words define me.

I paint pictures with them. They are my paintbrush and my paint. When I am verbally constipated I’m stuffed. I use words to earn my living, to express my love, my pain, my feelings and frustrations. Ever since I was a child people have considered me chatty, talkative, not shy to speak my mind. I think most people who meet me think I’m confident.

Words console, excite, soothe, stimulate, challenge. Yet, there is one time in particular, where I feel desparately impotent.

I do not have the right words for funerals. Or death. And sometimes even for fear.

I want so much to use my words to heal, to soothe and calm. I want so much to reach out with linguistic fingers and caress, hold tight, breathe with them..in and out. Yet when I need my words the most, they fail me.

A new friend, has had some terrible news about a member of her family this week and she is devastated. I am devastated for her. Where I hoped that the news would be ok, those hopes now lie in splinters on the shores of shock. Another friend’s husband, someone’s son, my mother’s friend, grieving people pass me and I have nothing more than ‘I’m sorry’, and ‘my condolences’.

I haven’t stepped up to the challenge. I don’t know what words to use to help ease the pain. I’m a wordsmith without the tools of her trade. I am schtum and ashamed. I’m scared to disappoint, and fear that I will, so I offer weak words and pray that the gravity in which I enshroud them is understood.

If I could only hold my grieving friends and family close with my words.   If only I could share the human burden of pain, holding up my end, confirming that they are not alone.  If only I could paint that word picture with finessesed strokes.  I don’t want to be mawkish, or sprout platitudes.

I don’t want to give the verbal version of a pink spotted card with velour ribbon attached to a ‘hope you feel better’ balloon. I want to say something meaningful.

Am I the only one who feels like this? Do you have the right words that comfort people when they need you?

If only I had the right words. Because although they are only words, they are all I have.

Image: Flickr – nicasaurusrex


'It’s only words, but words are all I have' has 30 comments

  1. February 4, 2011 @ 8:15 pm Very Bored in Catalunya

    No, no I never have the words. I envy people who seem somehow to just be able to say the right thing. I largely suspect they don’t think that much about it, they don’t mull it over, it just comes naturally to them.

    I usually utter something along the lines of ‘I don’t know what to say, but I’m hear to listen…’ because that is something I am good at.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:05 pm vix

      I do try to listen also. I find it’s even more difficult to leave sensitive comments online, without them coming out as if I’m regurgitating Hallmark crap.


  2. February 4, 2011 @ 8:15 pm Steve

    I think when someone is in the depth of grief other’s words can do little ease the pain… most of the time they merely want to hear that their own words – whatever they may be – or even their complete lack of words, their inability to communicate their grief is OK and that you will listen, even to their distraught silence.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:06 pm vix

      That’s true, I have found that. I true to not say anything to ‘make it better’ because honestly nothing does.


  3. February 4, 2011 @ 8:36 pm Deer Baby

    I feel the same. But I think a simple, heartfelt ‘I’m sorry’ and still being there when everyone else has checked out and moved on, matters more. Words aren’t everything.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:07 pm vix

      I do try to remember this, to go back after the initial shock has passed and let them know that I’m still here and still wanting to know what I can do to help.


  4. February 4, 2011 @ 8:37 pm mrs worthington

    When the Bad Thing happened 3 years ago even my closest friends were at a loss what to say and would be on my doorstep with flowers or food. Just be there, saying something is better than saying nothing at all and a true friend will know that


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:08 pm vix

      It’s important to remember this. One of the worst things I’ve done is to not go to the funeral of a boyfriend I once had. Of course it was many years after we’d broken up, but I feel I didn’t have the opportunity to put him to rest and to let his family know how much he had once meant to me.


  5. February 4, 2011 @ 8:44 pm Expat Mum

    I think you should say what you just said, in a nutshell of course. People don’t usually mind if the words aren’t poetic or otherwise fabulous. They just want to know you care.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:09 pm vix

      Thank you. I do try to say something and to let them know that I’m here to listen.


  6. February 4, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Michelle utterlyscrummy

    I wish I had the words too but sometimes there are no words. No adequate expressions of the gut wrenching feelings of grief, sadness, loss and sorrow. A hug and a meal or just a chance to share their burden can mean more than an entire thesaurus of platitudes. Be there and let them know you care and are thinking of them. It helps far more than people give it credit for.

    My heart goes out to you and your friend. They are just typed words on a screen but there is a huge amount of sentiment and love behind them hun.

    Arohanui xx


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:10 pm vix

      Thank you MIchelle, I can feel the love behind the words hun. I must admit I love that Maori word – Arohanui – it carries so much weight, so much love with it.


  7. February 4, 2011 @ 8:53 pm Tweets that mention It's only words but words are all I have | Vegemitevix -- Topsy.com

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  8. February 4, 2011 @ 9:44 pm marketingtomilk

    Does it suprise you to know that your words over the past few days have given me enormous comfort, made me feel listened to, cared about?
    There is no such thing as the “right” words. you cannot solve it, remove the pain, just by saying something beautiful and poetic. Just by saying something, anything you have done all that has been asked of you. You have shown me that you are listening and that my pain matters.
    There have been angels at my side these past few days, checking up on me, just raising their hand to let me know that they are there, thinking of me. You are one of those special people.
    We have the power of words, but they don’t have to be the most perfect, the most beautiful sequence of words and phrases – just a hand reaching out, filling that void of loneliness and despair.
    thank you.



    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:12 pm vix

      Thank you hun. I just need you to know that so many of us here really do care and we are here for you. To listen, to help you work your way through the grief. I know we haven’t met but there is a great deal of love behind these typed words, as Michelle has said in her comment up above. Much love and still here to listen Vx


  9. February 5, 2011 @ 9:44 am Sarah

    I too find it incredibly hard to write and say the ‘right’ words when someone is in pain.

    I too wish desperately to find the words that will help to ease that pain.

    In truth, I know, that no words can heal the pain and therefore I stumble, searching for words of more power that will help, but not seem insincere or over the top.

    I normally start with an apology of not knowing what to say and then either fall silent or ramble on hoping that some of my mutterings help in some very small way.

    Good luck in finding the words you need x


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:13 pm vix

      Thanks Sarah, I think it really is a human feeling. If only our cultures were more ‘expressive’ around grief as they are in other cultures – like the Maori with their tangi – we could do with being able to just express ourselves without feeling the need to check the politeness of our expression.


  10. February 5, 2011 @ 9:58 am scribblingmum

    I find it hard too and its because you want to fix it, give it a reason and sometimes there just isn’t, its just unfair. Saying something, however rubbish you think it is, is always better than saying nothing. Because you are putting your own feelings of uncertainty behind their need to hear that you are there for them. Sounds like you did good.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:14 pm vix

      That’s it in a nutshell. Why do bad things happen to good people? No one can tell me they know. There really isn’t an answer.


  11. February 5, 2011 @ 10:17 am shopaholicann

    Think of what you, in similar situations, would prefer to hear – I just backtracked as I typed “like” instead of “prefer” and it’s hardly appropriate which just goes to show what a minefield it can be.
    Failing words a hug goes a long way in lots of cases, though sad to say we are all trundling down the road of shunning even that basic physical contact, having the constant worry of some sort of “incorrectness” I think minefield is about right……


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:15 pm vix

      It is a minefield that’s true. There’s been some good situations in the comment stream above, for which I’m really grateful.


  12. February 5, 2011 @ 4:01 pm London City Mum

    I am a strong believer that actions speak louder than words. I know where you are coming from and it is incredibly hard. You remember people’s words when it suits you – or they cannot be ignored – but little gestures are things you never erase from your memory, and that, ultimately, is what really counts.

    LCM x


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:18 pm vix

      It’s hard when the relationship is an online one I think. It’s one of those times when people feel they can be open about their feelings, yet it’s difficult to respond with actions. In these situations words are sometimes all we have. In real life situations I think being there physically can be so helpful. Often taking care of the routine stuff in a household (taking care of the kids, or providing meals etc) can be a very practical way of helping.


  13. February 5, 2011 @ 4:38 pm susie@newdaynewlesson

    I think you have the right words, you just don’t know it.

    Death and sadness is one of the times that I find my words flow freely. I write poems. I wrote one I guested on your blog, I wrote another when my sister lost her baby, when my friends lost parents.

    Like others have said, the actions are really more than the words. I have written about that as well-that all you can do is be present.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:18 pm vix

      Thank you Susie. Your poems are beautiful.


  14. February 5, 2011 @ 11:32 pm Brighton Mum-Teenage Angst

    “I think this is quite simply the most moving, most important thing I have ever read. Thank you so very much for writing it. You are absolutely right, the quality of death is so important. Sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Much love to you hun, your courage is inspirational, as was your husband’s.”
    No, that’s not my comment to your post. It was YOUR comment to MY post about the death of my husband. See, you DO have the right words. In reality there really are no wrong words. Steve above has it spot on, I just needed to know that people were there and willing to listen to my rambling, repetetive and disjointed outpourings. To know you were listening, that someone was hearing me.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:20 pm vix

      Thank you. I’m still here if you need to talk, now that time has passed. x


  15. February 5, 2011 @ 11:45 pm bigwords

    Never know what to say. I suppose there are times when words wont ease the pain. In those initial hours, days, weeks, when most probably it’s just a shoulder to cry, an ear to listen and loving arms to hold them. Or simply just saying you’re there when they’re ready.


    • February 6, 2011 @ 12:22 pm vix

      I’m quite a ‘huggy’ physically demonstrative person so I guess that’s why I found trying to communicate my feelings in words on a screen is a challenge for me. It sounds like you might be a ‘huggy’ person too! 🙂


  16. January 9, 2012 @ 9:34 pm So you wanna blog?

    […] when our real life is too much and we just cannot get the words out. Yup, even those of us with verbal diarrhoea! Hang on in there. All the brilliant and the best bloggers take a break from time to time (like Mrs […]


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