Words are Powerful


There is an expression somewhere about making sure our brain is in gear before we engage our mouth, or as my mother used to tell me:  Think before you speak.  In this day of modern technology when our words are in the public sphere almost as quickly as we type them, such an idea of thinking first becomes even more important.  Yet so often the words are out there not only immediately, but often permanently. Something we said years ago can be brought easily to the fore.  Now, I am not justifying the use of previous statements as final thoughts because we are all allowed to change our minds.  But given the opportunity, it is my guess that many of us would have been better off if we had only thought about it first.

Yet, today, words and expressions that were considered once acceptable have become inappropriate and vice versa, some words once considered too vulgar to speak have become just another part of the vernacular.  The fact that we can now use just letters or even emojicons to express thoughts and feelings can also become inappropriate if not downright dangerous.  I mentioned in another article about asking about changing dates on something and the reply was simply “np”.  I read the comment to mean “nope” (having dropped the vowels) whereas the sender meant “no problem”.  I had read the response completely the opposite of its intention.

Since this particular article is due to be printed in November and December, I want to make reference to the upcoming Christian season of Christmas.   I do not have any difficulty when someone offers a greeting about the season.  Yet many people and places of government in particular as well as television are quite particular about not excluding non-Christians and so some will go to great lengths to not use exclusively Christian greetings.  Some folks don’t like to be told what they can and cannot say and get quite upset with this change. On the other hand, in some instances, I have found that some folks use the term “Merry Christmas” or “Season’s Greetings” without giving much thought to their words at all. Which is, as far as I am concerned, maybe even more problematic?

I began to wonder about greetings or phrases that become so rote for us that we utter them without thinking.  Though much has been written about not using “Christian” specific terms of greeting such as “Merry Christmas” in that it may be considered inappropriate if speaking to a non-Christian, sometimes the words are out of our mouths before we think. What seems to be a larger problem than uttering the words is what can happen next.  Instead of saying we are sorry, we might try to defend our right to use such terms.  And even though, it may be our right, we must ask ourselves whether or not we are truly defending a right or making an excuse for our not thinking before we speak.

Whether we like it or not, Christianity is not the l state religion of Canada – not that any religion should be, but we must be respectful of other faiths and those who profess no particular faith.  However, we must not “throw out the baby with the bath water”.  My faith teaches me to be respectful and a large part of that respect means thinking before I speak.  What do my words mean?  Do I want to say something inappropriate?

There is no doubt that words are powerful and the use of words can lead to acting on those words or making an attempt to at least giving ourselves justification for saying that which we said.  Some things that I have learned most out of thinking and speaking are:  words are impossible to take back; words don’t always get heard the way they were spoken (even less so when written); words are easily taken out of context; and we might claim that “sticks and stones” may hurt, words can hurt even longer.


Children and Grief

In recent years it seems as if children are being acknowledged for their own sense of personhood.  There was a time that children were considered to be “adults” in miniature in most ways except in the area of grief.  For a long time, children’s grief was not acknowledged probably because many adults felt it didn’t exist.  It is more likely however that a grieving child was ignored because adults didn’t know how to deal with the grief of a child.

We have learned over the years that children are more than little adults.  Too often children were considered “possessions” to be seen but not heard.  As such it was also assumed that they did not experience grief like an adult and as a result the attention needed by them was ignored or at least not seen for what it was.

Like many differences with adults children often grieve differently. (But then again, though grief is experienced by all, it also unique to each person).  Depending on the age of the child, they will experience grief differently from other children who may be grieving over the same loss.  Unfortunately, adults have not paid enough attention to a child’s needs to help them grieve in a way that is helpful for their development.

Because of the length of time that I first encountered my own understanding of the needs of children in these situations, I have lost the source of the information I have carried with me.  When dealing with a child who is experiencing grief, I have used the acronym C.H.I.L.D.as starting place in journeying with a child through their grief.

The “C” reminds me to “consider” the needs of the child first.  They are different but no less important than those of anyone else who is grieving.

“H” reminds me to be “honest” with the child.  Honesty means to tell the truth about what has happened.  Nothing could be more harmful to a child experiencing the death of a loved one, than to be told a falsehood even if it is intended to “lighten the blow”.  A good (or is it, bad) example would be to tell a child who is experiencing the death of parent that “God knows best” or “God needed her more, right now” or  “Grandpas has gone to sleep with the angels” or some such expression. Children can handle to true a lot better than we often give them credit.

“I” means that the child should be involved to the extent to which they feel comfortable. The degree of involvement will vary from child to child, situation to situation.  Let the child speak their needs.

The “L” is one the most important in any grieving situation, child or adult. As a caregiver, we need to “listen”.  Too often we feel the need to talk, to attempt to soothe the child by telling them what we know.  Instead of sharing our needs and answers we need to listen.

Lastly, “D” means we need to “do it all” again and again.


Children experience loss just like anyone else.  They need to be allowed to grieve.  They may also need help to do so, but they also must be allowed to set the agenda for it to happen in a healthy way.

Acknowledging the Deceased


I knew a man who said that the first thing he would read in the morning was the obituaries.  If he didn’t find his name he said he just went about his day.  I am assuming he was joking, but I have to admit that many people seem to read the obits.  Yet in a day and age when news travels fast, it seems to me that information about death seems to be slow than before.  I know that for one thing news about deaths travels more slowly due to privacy concerns.  In a small town in which I once lived, the funeral directors would place In Memoriam cards through the town.  That is no more.

But one thing that I am reading more and more in these obituaries is that people are requesting that “no services be held”.  Whenever, I read that no service (funeral, memorial, celebration of life) is to be held I can’t help but ask ‘why?’   I am sure that the request was made out of a sincere belief that their life was over, and that we should get on with ours. Yet, I can’t help but think about those who are left to grieve their loss.

There are likely many reasons for someone to choose that nothing be held following their death.  It may be purely financial, although it is a law requirement that a mortuary (funeral home) be contacted.  They will simply receive that deceased and await instructions as to what to do next.  There are many different options (and prices).   For these costs contact your local funeral director.  Especially in a small town, these knowledgeable people can be very helpful and generally are not going to use your vulnerability against you.  However, sometimes the vulnerability of guilt felt by loved ones can lead them to “go overboard” when it come to making necessary arrangements.

Sometimes the choice to “have no service” is a result of the idea that “funerals” belong to the church, and since more and more folks are no longer connected to a church, there is a sense that to have a funeral is not in keeping with their “beliefs”.  But funerals are not the property of any religious institution. Those who die with or without any connection to a church can have a service following their death.

I have to admit that personally, I am not a fan of having nothing (no service) after death.  Funerals are as much for the living as for the deceased.  I have known dying persons to attempt (and succeed) in using their impending death to help heal a family rift.  I have also been approached by the child whose mother had wished to have ‘nothing’ after her death.  Two or three weeks later, the daughter and other survivors felt something was missing from their lives.  They felt they needed to somehow honour the deceased yet do something for themselves.

Some folks may even have a celebration of their life while they are still alive of thinking that if people are going to say nice things about them, they want to hear it (and rightfully so). Yet, upon the death, there still needs to be something for the living.  They may need to say good-bye; they may feel the need to be with others who have known the deceased.  Whatever the reason there will always be a need.