Voicing the Unspeakable
My family died.
My fiancé was killed in a car accident and mere months later our daughter was born still. Here, then gone. Both circumstances completely beyond my control. I had a sweet little growing family and then they were gone and I was left behind to survive alone.
It took me 6 years to ever speak my daughter’s name aloud to anyone, to tell anyone of the existence of her. I carried her memory, her name, and her life hidden inside of me because the pain of acknowledging the loss of her was unbearable.
It took me more than a decade to speak aloud the phrase, “My family died.” I always spoke of them separately – my fiancé died and then my daughter died. Never naming them has my family, never speaking what felt unspeakable – that my family died and I was left alone here without them.
I have always loved words. The way they feel in my mouth. The way they look written across paper. How they create images and rhythms and a sort of music when you string them together. The endless ways in which they can be arranged and rearranged to say the same thing in a dozen different ways. The way in which they can evoke emotions and help us see the world in a new way.
It wasn’t until I spoke what felt unspeakable to me – about the life and death of my beautiful Grace and the loss of my family – that I started to understand the power that words hold.
When I held the words of my grief, my loss, my deepest sorrows inside of me, my life felt blurry. Dulled. Half-alive. I kept trying to revive it, to take the broken pieces and build a new life out of the ruins, but it kept crumbling around me into depression and grayness and a longing to simply not be alive at all anymore.
It wasn’t until I was finally able to voice what felt unspeakable that life snapped back into focus.
“I have a daughter. Her name is Grace. She died.”
“My family died. They died and left me alone and I still don’t know how to do this thing called life without them.”
Words have power. Speaking these words brought me back to life. Was it a miraculous, life is wonderful again in an instant event?
But it opened the door. And life came rushing back in through that door. All of it – the joys, the sorrows, bitter grief, numbing pain, beauty, color, sweetness and so very much light. The soothing waves, the sharp edges, the warm sunshine, and the bitter winds.
I spent six plus years in numbing grayness. Functioning, surviving, moving through life, and existing but not really living. Not experiencing all that this rich and vibrant life has to offer.
I won’t lie, there are occasions when I wish I could return to that numbing gray – when things are painful, when I hurt, when I am tired of saying good-bye or bone weary of longing for those I love and cannot see or hold.
Then life will do something beautiful again – something I wouldn’t have been able to see in the grayness of that silence and unspoken grief – and I breathe again. I speak again of whatever hurt or wound feels too unbearable to mention.
There is power and freedom in giving voice to what feels unspeakable. Those words hold life in their angles and curves and letters strung together. Not simply the existence of life, but the fullness of life – beauty and messiness, joy and sorrow, grief and light, and every shade and hue of color.
I often ask myself what I am afraid to speak. And then I ask how much life am I missing out on when I’m burying words that need to be voiced inside of me?
The answer is always too much. Too much life. Too much beauty. Too much joy. Too much color and vibrancy. Yes, there is pain and grief and messiness too. Life is all of it. The sharpness of life is always better than the dullness of existence.
If I could, I’d sit with every person on earth and ask them, “What are your unspeakables? What are you most afraid to say?” And I would listen. And I would see life, in all its fullness and richness and vibrancy. The griefs, the sorrows, the wounds and the joys, the beauty, the color.
While I can’t sit with every person on earth, I can ask you –
“What are your unspeakables?”
“What are you most afraid to say?”
I am listening.