No Words

PPP-ShoreI’ve been thinking about how many times people have expressed their love and sympathy for us by saying “there are no words,” and then about how important it has felt to me, since Owen’s death, to try to find some words for what it feels like to lose him and grieve for him. Writing has helped, even though I have also often felt the truth of Tennyson’s lines:

In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

Now what I’m discovering is that it is hard to keep finding new words in the absence of change. Narrative requires movement, not repetition or stasis. How many times (how many ways) can I say “I am sad”? If it weren’t so painful, it would be dull. (Maybe it already is: I’m sorry.) I suppose that’s one reason novels and memoirs about grief usually end on a hopeful note, with a moment, or at least a promise, of uplift. Where else would the momentum come from—without some sense of being on a journey towards a better place, why turn every page?

Life is not a book, though, and while time does of course pass and thus some things do change—some good things even happen!—the hard facts of his death remain the same and I seem to have have no words for it now except to say that I am, still, sad.

6 thoughts on “No Words

  1. Jeanne April 12, 2022 / 10:33 am

    I’m thinking about you and your sadness. A couple of times I’ve thought about telling my husband and daughter about what happened with you and Owen, but I haven’t yet–the reason I’ve thought about it, though, is because they’ve been with me watching tv shows wherein a parent loses a child, and noticed that my reaction to it is sadder than usual. It’s because I’m thinking of you.


    • Rohan Maitzen April 13, 2022 / 12:24 pm

      Thank you, Jeanne. It does make a lot of plot developments seem a lot less fictional or abstract, that’s for sure.

      I suppose the sadness never goes away, but eventually isn’t so close to the surface.


  2. kerryclare April 12, 2022 / 12:05 pm

    Not dull. I continue to admire the way you are INTERESTED in grief, as much as engulfed by it too. It shows us the workings of your critical mind, which is my favourite thing about you.


    • Rohan Maitzen April 13, 2022 / 12:26 pm

      Thank you, Kerry. It turns out that the examined life has its drawbacks; I depend very heavily now on distractions to keep myself out of the worst depths. But it’s true that thinking about things is a longstanding habit, as is writing about them.


  3. theresakishkan April 12, 2022 / 1:36 pm

    I echo Kerry’s comment. Not dull. I am full of admiration for your courage and your willingness to examine the course grief takes in your life, as unexpected in its journey as any river.


    • Rohan Maitzen April 13, 2022 / 12:29 pm

      That’s a good metaphor: it’s a river with unexpected turns and undercurrents. too.


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