On the Inadequacy of the English Language


I have always loved the English language. I’m fully on board with Dumbledore’s quote at the end of The Deathly Hallows that says “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.” I remember, too, seeing Dead Poet’s Society for the first time and watching as the students uncovered new words to explain the depth or degree of emotion. I even came to recognize the weight of the absence of words when I read in Shakespeare that “silence is the perfectest herald of joy.”

Something I was not prepared for when we suffered our loss was the complete inadequacy of the English language.

Where was the word that sums up the grief at a loss and the relief that comes after a long sickness ended?

Where is the word that explains the crippling fear that comes when someone you love dies?

Where is the word that means all except the one who died, so I don’t always feel like she is completely forgotten?

Where is the word that means a mother whose child has died?

I have more I could bring up, but it is one of those things that bothered me so much. I felt so isolated (though looking back I know I wasn’t) because I didn’t have a common enough experience to warrant a common language.

This is part of the reason I clung to friends I found online (or eventually found in my real life) because I didn’t have to try to create words to explain my experience. They just understood that when I would say, “ALL of the grandkids were there,” that I mean, “NOT ALL of them were there and seeing everyone but Lydia gathered together leaves a gaping hole in my insides.”

I hope one day, people will be less afraid to fully embrace grief and new words will be made to identify these difficult to encompass emotions.

For now, I remain thankful that my life was (and is) full of people who when they ask how I am and I answer, “OK,” they know that what I really mean is “I’m barely hanging on and sometimes I wish I wasn’t but I am and I’m not going anywhere.”