January 16, 2014

Words are powerful, wielding swords of destruction, at times, and building empires in others. I once attended a youth conference where they used an impactful example to display the power of words. They built a very tall tower of boxes, reaching to the ceiling of the gymnasium. It took many boxes to build the tower high, but only one box taken away to knock the entire structure to the ground. Words are like that. It takes so many positive words to encourage and build up a broken, weary soul. And, only one ugly word to utterly destroy a heart.

We know well of the power of words, to inspire or discourage. It is true of the words spoken in grief, the sting even more intense when the merciless salty words are poured directly into a gaping wound. I’ve been both the recipient and the spewer of stinging words. If we’re honest, we all have, at some point, been on both sides of the wielding sword of a sharp-edged tongue.

Much has been written and spoken before, many times, regarding the power of words and the pain caused when the wrong words are spoken in grief. As a Christian, I heard many of the clichéd phrases, meant to brush the uncomfortable and shameful weight of grief away.

“It was God’s will.”

“You can have more children.”

“Be grateful for the one you’ve been given.”

“A Christian doesn’t grieve without hope.” (Which is true, but it isn’t a loving thing to say in the midst of gut-wrenching, raw pain.)

And, my personal favorite: “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle.”

I know there’s a popular and very well-written article going around to challenge well that last phrase. I didn’t write it, but I could’ve, because as those who know me well can testify, I’ve said for years that there is no truth to the words in that phrase. There are a whole lot of things that I can’t handle, and losing my child…or three of my children…certainly makes the list. It isn’t about what I can handle, it’s about the strength and grace of the God who carries me. I don’t have to handle any of it. And, I’m not expected to.

But, all those words that sting are for another post. What I want to talk about, instead, is finding a word to inspire. Yes, I’m one of those people who like to choose a word for the year. For, as much power as a word holds to be wielded as a weapon to bring harm, it can also be used as a tool for healing. I’m not much on resolutions…making promises that I don’t even want to pretend to have the intentions of keeping. Will power is not a strength of mine. In early grief, getting out of bed, breathing the next breath, and walking tenderly through each moment would’ve been a good resolution, had I the gumption to lift my head from the pit.

Words, though, words are a different story. They have long served as a loyal friend to me. There is something altogether empowering and comforting to put a name to the very thing that vexes us…to call out the broken places…to crumble walls built around wounded hearts. Speaking the words, writing them, knowing them, releases us from the stronghold that hinders our restoration and offers the power that brings healing. The beginning steps to finding healing for our broken places, to being set free from that which entangles us, is to acknowledge it…to give it a name.

Even if just one word, can pierce through the stifling darkness to give you a glimmer of hope and peace this year, consider it. Perhaps, if you’re up to it, maybe embrace that word and let it roll around, speaking what it will to your tired mind and battered heart. It doesn’t even have to be one word, if you like a phrase, or a theme, scripture, idea, photography, artwork, or a song. It should fit you, speak to you…now. Where you are. This year. In this place.

My word for 2014 is FREE.

Among the list of things longing for freedom in my heart:

Free from ideas that hinder, and words that cut and discourage. Free from identities slapped on us that have nothing to do with who we are deep in the souls once fashioned meticulously while we were yet in our mother’s wombs.

I’m keeping a journal for the year to write thoughts and paste pictures…or whatever strikes my fancy on this journey with the word FREE. If you’d like to join in, with your own thoughts or word, SGM has a private online support group where we’ll be sharing on this and other subjects each week (Mondays). Or you could just share your word here on this post…I would love to read about the words that speak to you. We may be limping a little, stumbling with all the broken offered by this world. But, we aren’t walking alone. And, that is still something.

And, if you’re in the place where it is annoying to even consider searching your heavy, overwhelmed heart for a word…then forget the notion. But, know this. You are not alone, even now. And, those words that whisper pain in the wee hours of the night do not get the final say in your story.

Or in mine.


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    Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly's journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.

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