Words Matter ~ Breaking the silence

Words MatterThere’s this lady I know . . . well, sort of. I’d hardly even call her an acquaintance, but we run into each other often enough that we talk about this and that. She’s married, hoping to buy a house, has a child — or is it two? Like I said, we don’t really know each other that well.

But then the accident happened.

I know she knows. I know she knows because of the awkward silence and the sideways glances. Sometimes the silence speaks louder than words. And while I gather children, put things back on shelves, buckle seat belts all I can think about is the silence.

It stings.

I hardly know this woman, and yet it stings. I hardly know this woman, and yet her silence can bring tears to my eyes. I hardly know this woman, and yet I wish she would say something — anything — to break the silence.

I think of all the things that I’ve been told. The words that I’ve clung to and the words that I’ve had to look past. So many different words, but all intended to express compassion, to share in my grief if only for a moment.

But the silence grates on me. And I’m not even sure I know her name.


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About Dana

Dana homeschools her children on five acres in the country with her husband John.
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34 Responses to Words Matter ~ Breaking the silence

  1. Alison says:

    I’m not sure I know how to join in with this. I don’t twitter or anything. I don’t fully understand what it is even, but I do know the silence hurts. My sister hasn’t spoken to me since shortly after my dad died a year ago. She accused me of things that she really didn’t understand at all, things that if she DID understand, she’d know I COULDN”T do. We have one-time mutual friends who are totally silent. I know some of them are going to only see her side and not the facts, but I know there must be others who understand how estates work and could speak some logic into her. But instead, everyone is silent with me. A plastic smile and a cold shoulder when I see them out and about. Them ripping in on me for my “theivery” would be better than the totally apparent I-can’t-believe-you-did-that-to-your-sister attitude. Sometimes I want to hang a sign around my neck defending myself. Its a small town… and we look alike so even those that don’t really know us have figured out we’re sisters. The silence from her side hurts. That she’s listening to what she wants to believe and not what fact-knowing people are telling her hurts more. The silence from the others just adds to it. I don’t have the option of breaking the silence. It would be improper for me to initiate a conversation with, “You know, she’s wrong. I didn’t steal anything from her.” But you can, when you’re ready, initiate a conversation with your silent “friend”. Everytime she sees you, she may be aching the rest of the day for lack of words to say. She may want to say something, but is afraid of either coming across too la-dee-da or making you cry in public. Or maybe she’s experienced loss herself and the idea of talking to you at all will bring it all back at a time she’d rather not “lose it”. You never know what’s going on in her head until you step out. But, its still raw. Stepping out like that is hardly something that should be on your to-do list right now. Just try to remember that she may be aching just the same at the silence. I can only hope that’s true for my sister, but given I recently got a letter from her lawyer, I don’t think it is.

  2. Dana,
    Once again I can feel how hurt you are, and I’m so sorry. I will err on the cautious side and suggest that perhaps she is very afraid, that one day she will lose a child, that she will say the wrong thing, that she doesn’t know what to say, it could be so many things that prevent her from talking. The Lord will have to deal with her, and while it hurts you, perhaps her silence is a blessing. Recently my Pastor said some very hurtful things to me and I wish he had been silent, my heart is still feeling shattered over both what he said and what he implied. I’ve lived a lifetime of pain and regrets, I didn’t need anymore from him, and like the woman, the Lord will have to deal with him as I won’t any longer.
    Many hugs to you, and continued prayers for you and your family.
    Rose Catriona´s last [type] ..We are doing school today

  3. Dana says:

    I’m sure she just isn’t sure what to say. It isn’t like she really knows me, but I should probably just say something. I still feel like I need to say something about the accident, but I suppose I don’t, really.

    And Alison, how sad! Family disputes are so difficult and I’m thankful to not have any direct experience. Things so often get in the way. I hope you find peace . . . preferably with your sister, but at least with the situation.
    Dana´s last [type] ..Words Matter Breaking the silence

  4. Laurie says:

    She probably feels badly that she doesn’t know what to say. Some families just never talk about terrible things and she may have been raised like that.

  5. Dana says:

    I know there’s very likely nothing personal in it. It isn’t that. But silence is difficult to deal with. You smile and say hi and get a sort of weird look as they turn away and you’re just not sure how to deal with it.

    Many people have told me it is the silence that bothers them the most. You can’t bring it up with the whole town. We are surrounded by loving and supportive people so it hasn’t gotten to me that much, but I feel it. In interactions I once had with a near stranger and in the glances at the store or post office while I’m standing in line. You’re never quite sure whether they have anything to do with anything, but it is a small town and it makes you feel uncomfortable.

    Another lady told me she felt like she had a sign on her forehead that said, “I lost a child.” No one knows quite what to do or say, but on this side you really just wish they’d say something, even if it is awkward.
    Dana´s last [type] ..Words Matter Breaking the silence

  6. Maybe she’s afraid of adding to the words you have to look past.
    Almost Unschoolers´s last [type] ..Paper Doll Notebook World

  7. Chris says:

    Am in the same boat as Alison — no blog, no tweet, little Facebook… Haha: i really don’t read other blogs… So, no link. Do I need to make one to participate for how you want this, Dana, or is it okay to post here — maybe it bogs down your blog?

    (Alison, so sorry abt your sister situation, unf. and sad. Your sister would be someone who could help you grieve your dad and celebrate his life but your pain is probably compounded by the snubs and hurtful accusation. And in a small town, ugh, so sorry. Sending well wishes your way.)

    Just a thought on Words Matter, in this case, it’s the lack of words mattering. (is that even a word?!) I feel protective of Dana and her family so I immediately want to tell this lady “bless your heart” which I recently learned from my friends in the south can be the southern lady equivalent of “kiss my tush” (I could say grits… I want to say a$$ to that lady)

    Its curious behavior on the ladys part esp because the Dana we all know draws us to you. I wish I lived close enough to pass you in the grocery store– to be with you happy or sad, to play in the open fields with your darling babies, to shop with you at Michaels… I can say with some degree of certainty that the ladys behavior is off — I think you know that — but invisibility hurts. And with the significant loss you all have had, the appropriate response is the world should stop, take notice, change… It has for more people who know you than for less.

    Well, bless her heart.

  8. Janel says:

    {hugs} I know that heartbreaking silence.

    I have family members that aren’t speaking. Neither side knows what to do with the other. I’ve talked extensively with both, so I understand both sides. Both were right in their respective choices, but the delivery was all wrong and the expectations of “what now” are all wrong. So I pray. There is nothing left for me to do.

    And then there is… well. Let’s just say I understand.

    I think this is a great idea! I’ll try to share something later today. If not, next month. : )

  9. Amanda G. says:

    Wow. Very powerful.

    I’m going through something somewhat similar. I recently experienced a miscarriage and my best friend completely acted like nothing ever happened. She would text me constantly about her pregnancy and about the pregnancies of mutual acquaintances. I just went along with it. I didn’t say anything until recently. Finally, I told her how I felt and she said she understood how much she hurt me. She never even called while I was recovering from my miscarriage; she only texted. She knows everything about me and my struggle to conceive and I feel completely abandoned by her. It hurts so much. After she replied to me I told her I wanted things to work out but she would have to make the effort – that I’m too hurt and vulnerable right now to invest in the friendship. All I really want is a phone call. That’s it. I’ve received silence instead. It’s been a month and I’ve heard nothing from her. I lost my first pregnancy and my best friend at the same time. My heart is broken.
    Amanda G.´s last [type] ..So I Blocked Her Ass

  10. Dana says:

    Here is fine, Chris! I’m honored that you want to participate even without a blog!

    And there’s no need to feel particularly “protective” of me in this situation. I struggled over the ending so much last night (more like this morning!), but I think I need a few more lines.

    This is the one thing that comes up in conversation after conversation with people I talk to. The silence can be unbearable. One person said she felt like there was a sign around her neck that said she had lost a child, and everyone looked away. This is more concrete for me, because I’ve talked to her often enough to know that it isn’t just me. At the checkout, at the post office, wherever I stand in line, I’m never sure. It could just be me because it’s always there just under the surface. I mean people “look” at people for all sorts of reasons and no reason at all.

    But it isn’t that bad, either. I have too many loving people around me who are there when I need them to really dwell much on anything else.
    Dana´s last [type] ..Words Matter Breaking the silence

  11. Dawn says:

    I took and deep breath and wrote my post. Then I emailed my dad, and called him, and let him know that he could skip today’s post if he didn’t think he could handle the heavy nature of it. He said he will read it after breakfast. (Butterflies in my stomach.)

    I’ve been on both sides of the silence situation, both in losing my sister and my mom, when people just quit talking to me because they didn’t know what to say and in similar situation where a friend lost her husband. I felt SO inadequate, not knowing anything to say and felt like I was tripping over my stupid words when I talked to her. I love her, and support her and her kids with prayers, but it took a while before I could comfortably talk with her. I know it seems selfish but it was just SO HARD. I could pour out my heart in prayer for her but I couldn’t chat after church. Weird.
    Dawn´s last [type] ..Words Impact

  12. Dana says:

    That’s it Dawn, exactly. There have been times when I’ve been silent because I scarcely knew the person and just didn’t know what to say…and times when I’ve only said something because I HAD to. The person was too close to just let it slip.

    But now I know the other side. Though I KNOW it isn’t personal (at least not likely) it surprises me how much I do notice.

    A careless word, a “stupid” comment, takes a moment to get over. It happens. People aren’t trained for this. We trip over words and make a mess and life goes on. Even the one hurtful thing I was told only took a brief cry into my pillow before I was able to let it be their issue and not mine.

    But after the carelessness comes normalcy. Most people talk with me more now, not less. I also notice those who make a point of seeking me out and saying something to me at church or wherever.

    I am blessed beyond measure. But now I also know how important those seemingly trivial conversations we have throughout the day can be for making you feel part of your community.
    Dana´s last [type] ..Words Matter Breaking the silence

  13. Jenn4him says:

    I need to apologize to you for being silent. In my defense, I did not know you very well before the accident, just a little via Renae and Twitter. That is really no excuse. I should have told you that I cried for 3 days when I learned of your loss. I should have. I am sorry. Like others have said, no one wants to say the wrong thing at a time when someone is hurting. I guess now thanks to you, we know better. I may consider doing this post, but really, I am not a writer. I jabber a lot on my blog, but not with much style. Also, may I ask you about your header picture? I’ve often wondered where the picture was from.

  14. Dana says:

    Don’t worry about it, Jenn. But I did write it mostly to let people know it is OK to say something. Most people I’ve talked to say it is the silence that bothers them the most. I don’t know that that extends to online. I haven’t really thought about who has or hasn’t said anything, just been overwhelmed by the number of people who did take the time to stop by and say something!

    Thank you for caring about us.

    And my header picture just came with the free blog template I found. I want to change it to something personal to our family. Maybe a picture or collage from our property, but I don’t know how to do that fuzzy effect and I’m not much of a photographer. :)
    Dana´s last [type] ..Words Matter Breaking the silence

  15. Jenn4him says:

    Thank you for your graciousness. At first I thought that was of your property, but then looked closely and saw palm trees and the water. Not Nebraska! :-) Too bad.
    Jenn4him´s last [type] ..Having Thoughts of Spring

  16. Susan Beth says:

    Oh, Dana, what a challenge you have as you take steps forward. Take this suggestion with a grain of salt, because it is nothing more than a guess, and it may fit my style, but not yours. I wonder if the next time you see her you can give a little smile and say something like “I’m sure you heard about our loss, but it’s always been nice to run into you from time to time, and I continue to look forward to that, even if sometimes I’m just barely able to hold it together.” That way it doesn’t put the burden on her to think of something to say, and it affirms that anything she sees in you that is different is not because of her. It seems so unfair for you to have to carry the burden of speaking first of the situation, but given our general human ineptitude at dealing with the hard stuff, it might be the only way to get past an unnecessary barrier.

  17. Tancy says:

    Dana, Thank-you for commenting on my blog today! I too should have said something to you long before now. I agree with your comment that saying nothing is hard to deal with sometimes. I wrote a poem after losing our infant daughter about silence. It was a while after and everyone else moved on with their lives and the pain was still raw and brutal for me. I took no offense from people but the silence was screaming at me! I feel your pain and I am SOOOOO sorry you have to face this trial in your life!

    I’m sure many are blessed by your words as your share your struggles!
    May God be near!
    Tancy
    Tancy´s last [type] ..My New Appearance

  18. Cara says:

    This post is such a blessing. Once again, you are ministering to others in your grief. I will make sure that I am NOT that silent one when people around me are hurting, grieving, suffering, struggling, etc. I will make sure I say something that would only encourage them. I have a friend that almost lost her baby a few weeks ago. And now, they are dealing with some serious issues (brain damage, etc.). Sometimes you do not know what to say. But God spoke to me one day- how good a word from Him is to the weary. I learned then that He calls us to speak. And I do feel it is so important to pray first and be directed by Him for words if we feel like we do not know what to say. Another friend of mine lost her precious baby recently on the birthday of another baby she had that died of SIDS. Truly heart breaking. Sometimes I feel like there is nothing I can say because the pain is just so much. But I know that I can tell her that I care and l love her and I am here for anything she may need. Even if that is just a person to listen and understand and cry with. I am here. And I do not personally know you. But I truly and deeply am SO sorry for what you are experiencing. I can only imagine the terrible pain you have experienced as you are grieving so deeply. I have six kiddos myself, and my heart just aches for you. You are an amazing mother. Cara

  19. Allison says:

    Dana, Your words read so true to me. My counselor just today brought up the same point that my outcome is far too frightening and real for some of my friends to deal with by interacting with me. That thought helps a little but the pervasive silence of many has been a very real point of hurt and anger since my daughter’s death. I agree, words do matter. Even clumsy words express the desire to comfort and willingness to walk along side even if just for a few steps.

    I don’t have a blog to link directly to a post, just a caringbridge page, but one sentence comes quickly to mind when thinking about this topic. Our Lydia lived to be almost ten years old, in her very disabled body. As I said in the obit, the suffering she endured was great but God’s glory revealed was greater. It was a painful but very rich decade for our family-spiritually, relationally, provisions, four more kids added… This friend greeted us in line at the visitation and humbly said “When I look at your family I know God is good.” The simplicity, depth and timing of those words still awe me in the most heart warming way.

  20. Mary says:

    Wow, this was a very powerful post. A lot came to mind… Unfortunately one of the first things was something I said to a friend who lost a baby mid-pregnancy. I was so shocked when she called that I said, ‘you’re kidding!’ She hung up. We managed to reconnect but I’ll never forget how those words slipped out of my mouth. OF COURSE she was NOT KIDDING.
    Also, when we found out we were having our sixth child, a one of my best friends stopped speaking to me. Sounds odd, but we met in graduate school, almost 17 years ago. I was just 20, so young and in a foreign country, and we bonded so deeply. We’re like night and day (atheist/ religious, conservative/liberal, etc. etc.) but our friendship had always somehow survived and flourished until my family size became too much for her. (She believes overpopulation is dooming the planet and that we’re being irresponsible.)
    So, her silence isn’t from not knowing what to say, but not being able to tolerate our lifestyle. It would be easy to shrug and say she’s crazy… But she was my friend for almost two decades, through our marriages and children being born. We talked every two days. We
    I have a beautiful baby, but my heart has a hole where my friend used to be.

    Praying for you always!

  21. kay burnett says:

    dana: i really hate to ask you this. i fill really ignorant. i so want to “link” our posts for “words matter” and i can’t seem to handle that part of my blog. i’ve never linked with anyone. i know this sounds foolish. i even tried the little “linkz” or whatever it was and it didn’t work. i have written my “words matter” post but i would so like to be “linked.” i know you are so busy. i have know idea where you live in this country but its 3:05am here in columbus georgia. and i know you read at night. just thought i would ask. i check on you everyday. i hope that matters too. i feel honored to be among women that are drawn to you thru their faith. i too am making my way thru my own devotions. anyway, i just i would ask you. thanks. you’re in my prayers.

  22. Dana says:

    Don’t worry about it Kay. I fixed it . . . sort of. According to the inlinkz thing, it is right, but it still goes to your homepage. My screen may just need to refresh or something. You do not have to link back here, but I’ll try to email you later to walk you how to link to someone. I fear my brain is too fuzzy right now to make sensible instructions . . . maybe after a cup of tea and this little man stops nursing!
    Dana´s last [type] ..Words Matter Breaking the silence

  23. Janna says:

    When our Zechariah was born he needed many reconstructive surgeries. I was thrilled he was alive and thriving in spite of the medical problems. One of the first times I took him out in public, head wrapped large in bandages, someone said to me ” what did you do, drop him on his head?”. I couldnt leave the house for weeks.
    What was worse was those who were staring and silent…and the silence was an indictment and accusation and I knew it.
    Sometimes, it is true, that people just dont know what to say….others….well with others, sometimes its best if they dont speak. Words do matter and they can strike the heart, leaving wounds that last decades. As in all things, the Lord has a part in this and perhaps it is His protection that keeps some silent.
    God bless and keep you and your family, wrapped warm in His love and protected from the thoughtless words and actions of others. You are in my prayers.
    Janna´s last [type] ..The smarter I get-

  24. misty says:

    I have read about your journey over the past months and have cried and grieved for your family. I know the pain of “silence” but I know that alot of times it is because people don’t know what to say, if they should say something etc. We all respond differently to grief and death. I had a stillborn baby six years ago. I was surrounded by encouraging words, some silence and honestly some pretty stupid and hurtful comments. I found that I often had to tell others it was okay to not know what to say. When my Dad, who was one of my best friends, died last year I had the same experiences. I have learned a lot through loss how to help others in grief. I am so sorry for the pain your familly is living through

  25. Q says:

    Forgive her, dear lady, she knows not what she does.

    Then inhale . . . and exhale . . .

  26. Dana says:

    There isn’t really anything to forgive. It surprises me how much it bothers me, but you just don’t know how to deal with it. I’m fortunate not to have to deal with it more. That seems to be a frequent issue among the people I talk to who have dealt with loss.

    People just don’t know how to respond and in grief, you are hypersensitive to everything. :(

    And Q, we do lots of breathing together. :)
    Dana´s last [type] ..Hope blossomed

  27. Tonia says:

    Silence is what hurts at the beginning and then two years from now someone out of the blue will ask about him. It will be an aquaintance that you only briefly know and they won’t know that anything happened and it will hurt to have to say it. It will hurt all over again. But the silences and the confessions hurt less and less and are replaced by an ache….but a good one. Gratitude that you were blessed to have him in your life if only for a short time and a sure knowledge that the Lord has greater things for him and that you will see him again. Last month was the five year anniversary for my brother. The surprises have stopped and the memories remain.

  28. Dusti says:

    This is a great meme. Words do matter. I’m not sure I’ll join in this time but wanted to stop by and say hi. I have a hard time sharing from my heart on my little blogspace, but want to-to be real, authentic without being negative and this seems a great segway for that.
    Blessings
    Dusti´s last [type] ..this moment

  29. ((Dana)) I hope you don’t mind that I am just popping on to say I am still reading but don’t know what to say. I love reading how your other children will take those memories of Tiggy and talk of him, or play with the toys he loved. So sad but a sweet way to remember.
    Happy Elf Mom´s last [type] ..Please LISTEN

  30. Pingback: Words matter, to a mother « The Wild Homestead

  31. Amy says:

    I suppose I was that woman once but then I came to know “The Silence” – I was living every mother’s worst nightmare. I lost my beloved child.

    Even my parents were silent. For more than a decade they were silent.

    During that time, I realized that people needed my guidance in ministering to me – something that was very difficult for me.

    I was lost, grieving and alone in “The Silence.”

    But in “The Silence,” God comforted me.

    And I understood better who my Father was.

    Now, when I meet others who are grieving, I apologize for my feeble attempts at words of comfort but I say something – even if it is just I’m sorry with a big hug. I send little cards with notes that say “I’m praying for you” I make brief little phone calls – not to bother them but to let them know I care, etc.

    In case they don’t know the Father, I don’t want them to be alone in “The Silence.”

    Dana, I only occasionally comment but I pray for you (and your family) and I wish I could hug you. I wish I could hug your pain away but I know God will heal you – as best as one heals after such a loss.

    My God bless you and comfort you as you grieve…
    Amy´s last [type] ..Dont Feel Sorry for Me

  32. Brandy says:

    Speaking of how words matter, the words in your blog have touched my very soul. How often I forget how blessed our little family is. All I could do yesterday (after reading your blog for the first time) was tell my kids how much I love them – to touch their faces and gaze into their eyes and thank the Lord for his mercy and grace – for giving me something as special as motherhood and for protecting our family from all of the unseen things I don’t even know He’s protected us from. Thank you for sharing your story so that I could remember what really matters – and to remember that my words matter, even if our children are tired of hearing how much I love them! I have prayed for your family over and over again – my heart is broken for you yet hopeful for what He may bring into your lives as a result of all you have been through as a family. You are a beautiful woman. Thank you for inspiring me even in the midst of your grief.
    Brandy´s last [type] ..Math Monopoly

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