‘There are no words’

Sharon Stoffel, MS, LCSW, LPC

“There are no words.” It’s a cliche used often and casually in conversation. It means that we can’t explain how we feel or that something is so unreal that we can’t believe it has happened.

That is what it feels like when someone we love dies. There are no words. A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with someone about the death of a loved one and we both were looking for words to describe the feeling. We finally decided that indeed, there were no words. 

How do we describe what it is like when someone we love dies? What words do we use? Shocked, sad, lonely, lost. But do those words really describe the intensity with which we feel? Do they really describe what we are experiencing now that our loved one is no longer physically with us?

What do we say to someone who has experienced the death of a spouse, sibling, parent or child?  “We are sorry,” “Is there anything I can do,” “My thoughts are with you.” These are all acceptable things to say, but they really don’t touch the intensity of the grief a friend or family member is feeling. Maybe we just say “There are no words.”

I guess part of the difficulty is that words are intellectual. And yes, grief is partially an intellectual experience, but mostly it is an emotional, feeling experience. Maybe that is why there are no words, because it’s not about words, it’s about how we feel or sometimes don’t feel.

So what do we say when someone asks us how we feel or what it’s like to experience the death of someone we love. Maybe we just say the truth, “There are no words.”

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