Death of Words—Suicide Silence

“There are no words.” I wrote that in the card to friends whose 17-year-old son had committed suicide.

“There are no words,” his sister said at his service as she, a writer, a weaver of words, attempted to eulogize her brother.

There are no words to describe the unending physical and emotional maladies he had endured in his 17 years. I sat stunned, astounded by his great courage in seeking pockets of joy in the midst of great pain.

There are no words to give meaning to his final choice.

What Do We Do?

When there are no words, when every expression, every action seems inadequate, how do we support and uphold the parents, the sisters, the grandparents, the friends, whose brains are bombarded with words—questions, accusations, anger, and despair?

There are no words. Don’t use them. No Bible promises (although we still believe them). No assurance that life will go on. Or get easier. No exhortation to be strong for the remaining children or each other. Because there are no words, no words that will not wound.

So What Then?

Be present—Just be there. Without words. Without questions. Observe. Handle a need without being asked. Listen if they wish to talk, without comment.

Pray hard—Pour out your words to God. Pray in their stead, because it’s likely they cannot pray. Groan. If it’s acceptable for the Spirit of God Himself to intercede “for us with groanings too deep for words” when we do not know how to pray (Romans 8:26), then our groanings for others who cannot pray must also be sufficient. For sometimes, there are no words.

Hold on—The grieving family members are hanging by their fingertips. Letting go might feel like a relief. Hold on:

  • To their hands, giving them the gift of touch, without words (because there are no words).
  • To good memories, allowing them to share remembrances of joyful  times with the one who has died. In your card, you can tell them of a way their loved one blessed your life, if you can find the words. Hearing you in person might be too difficult just yet. By writing your memory down, you give them permission to read it at a moment when they are strong enough, a time when it will be a word they can handle.
  • To hope for a better future, trusting that healing will come. It won’t be perfect; there is no plastic surgery to repair this scar. But there will come days when life feels livable, when joy surprises them with warmth and maybe even laughter.

There are no words. But there is still the whisper of hope.



6 thoughts on “Death of Words—Suicide Silence”

  1. Speaking from the experience of losing a son, please, please remember to pray 6 weeks, 2 months, 6 months, a year from now. The pain will dull, the good memories take over and they will find a new normal. But it takes time. We had and still have a good support system. We need to be their’s.

  2. My father died of suicide. He was a believer, a pastor and a fantastic father. I clung to Bible promises as we walked through his death (I was 25 and married with 2 children, one just a week old.) It was the way God loved me and held me as I grieved and still do 18 years later.

    I would say Bible verses (actual words from God’s word…not interpretations of it or expounding on old trite maxims and vague promises) are always appropriate if the survivor is a believer. It is kind of like that memory suggestion, write it, and when they feel they are ready to they can read the promise. God’s word does not return void.

    Just my experience. God is faithful even when things don’t make sense.

  3. Thank you, Amy and Deb telling your own stories, for sharing out of your pain. It allows all of us to learn empathy from someone who has been there. Amy, the idea of writing the Scriptures so the hurting person can read it when he or she is ready is an excellent one. It’s a way we can offer God’s word effectively so that it promotes healing rather than causing pain. Thanks for commenting.


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