What to Do  When Words Aren't Enough

Design by Brittany Isdith Sometimes, things happen that are simply too awful to rationalize. When tragedy strikes, our mere human brains are unable to compute the atrocity they are now faced with dealing with. So, we turn to one another.

With the recent loss of one of our peers, the Syracuse University community has sought support. We’ve knocked on doors, dialed numbers, and sent texts with tears in our eyes. If you’re on the receiving end of any one of these interactions, it’s impossible to know the “right” thing to say. Our instinct is to attempt to heal our friends or loved ones—to take away the grief they are experiencing. We want to make it all better. We can’t bear to see them in any pain of this magnitude.

But sometimes, there just are no words that we can produce that will make something OK. And even if the words do come, they are not always adequate. The question now becomes, what do we say when words aren’t enough?

The answer: we don’t say. We do.

We sit.

We go to our friends, and we stay with them. While everyone copes with loss differently (and many people prefer to be alone to process, which is something to always remember), the best thing a friend can do is at least offer his or her company. A hand on a leg or a head resting on a shoulder. This sort of physical support can go a long way, even if there is no dialogue involved.

We bring.

Tissues. A blanket. A DVD. Tea. A smile.

We listen.

If you’re not a counselor or someone trained in a similar field, you’re not an expert. And you never will be. But you do have ears. You have ears that have listened to your friends’ thoughts in better times and you certainly can listen now. Listen actively (no distractions) and with intent. Let them talk and let them cry. Talking out a situation, or even not talking and just being, can do a world of good for someone.

We understand.

If your friend is not acting the way that you think they should during the grieving process, it’s because there is no way that they “should” act. If they’re not crying, crying too much, or simply are remaining idle, it’s important to remember that grief shows itself in every possible way.

We offer.

Resources, whether campus-wide or national. Any individual at Syracuse University can contact the Counseling Center 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 315-443-4715.

We are helped, too.

It’s OK for anyone to feel sadness. Even if you personally were not close to an individual who has passed away, you are entitled to feel sad. It’s called empathy. Confide in others around you and allow yourself the vulnerability that we all need sometimes.

While we at Jerk don’t pretend to be an expert on manners of loss, we bring about this dialogue in hopes that it may help the Syracuse University community care for one another in their own experiences with grief. Sometimes it’s not what we say, but what we do, that can help those close to us in a way we could never predict.