Author: Michele Hiester Marcum

I am a writer at heart, and I'm happiest with a pen in my hand, a new notebook on my lap, and my mind racing full speed ahead.  I communicate.  It's what I do.  Ironically, one of the highest hurdles I've had to cross is that of communication after.  After the funeral dinner.  After the final goodbyes.  After everyone else resumes their normal everyday busyness.

question marks

I just don't know what to say.

It's been eight years for my family and me.  Just eight of the longest, most brutal, fastest dissipating years of my life.  I simply can't comprehend how the pain of losing someone can drag the bottom of an eight-year stretch while the calendar days simultaneously slip on by, disappearing in succession without my notice.  How can I not find words to explain that phenomenon of grief?

We learn from birth how to express ourselves. As infants, we cry when we're hungry or wet or cold.  As toddlers, we learn to put syllables together with gestures to buy us what we need.  Many even learn basic sign language to bridge the gap between thought and speech.  But after years of perfecting communication through adulthood, all it takes is a tragedy to render us speechless.  Wordless.

And we're not comfortable with silence, so when we're grieving and can't utter our thoughts, the world swoops in to fill the void.  Well-intentioned mourners will rally round you and offer condolences, casseroles and advice.  It was meant to be…it was his time…God called her home…you've gotta keep going…call me if you need anything.  The barrage of voices follows you into the valley and echoes around you as you attempt to find your way.  Well-intentioned but over-whelming.

Words have a way of drawing us in, tripping us up, propelling us forward, or destroying us, don't they?  They can heal us, blind us, or protect us from the truth.  Words taken out of context or deciphered through a broken heart can take on unintended meanings that can cripple us or catapult us into despair.  At first, I couldn't find the words at all but when I finally did, I feared what might come out when my brain was ignoring my mouth.  Words matter.

So when I say that I don't know what to say, I mean that I don't know the right thing to say.  Trust me - I have plenty of words to share on just about any topic, but when it comes to my brother or the U.S. military, that's sacred ground for me.  The truth is, I'm not okay.  I would love nothing more than to spew my wrath about losing a sibling to this crazy war-filled world, but I won't.  Because words can't be recalled once they've been turned loose. 

In a previous post, I wrote about not being angry.  While that's mostly an accurate statement, I need to be clear that there is a piece of me that I choose to not yet unlock, because I know it will suck me into a bitter well.  When I see flags being burned by anti-Americans denouncing this country and protestors publicly dishonoring our nation's heroes, I want to rage at the lunacy of it all, but I won't.  Freedom of speech may be an unalienable right, but it's also a fragile gift to me when my words are chosen wisely.  I choose not to tarnish the service of those who have given to me.  I choose silence over being misunderstood. Peace over conflict.  Honor over doubt.  Sanctity over rage.

I have the words.  Millions of them, in fact.  But for now, until I can get them perfectly arranged in a way that makes sense to my grieving heart, I'll hang on to them.  Wait for them to taste just right.  Wait and be still until I know my own truth. 

If you haven't found the words yet to communicate your deepest thoughts, please know that you are not alone.  I believe your words will find you  when the time is right.

Sometimes it's what we don't say in the interim that really, truly, matters most.