A friend of mine shared that her three-year old son had somehow confused two words in his rather large vocabulary this past week. He has a toy piranha fish that he enjoys along with a small play turtle. He became distraught when he misplaced the fish and came running to his mom saying, “I can’t find my parmesan!” He has continued to use these mixed-up words – parmesan instead of piranha – giving his family cause to grin and laugh as he tries to figure it all out.
I, myself, have a very embarrassing case of mixed-up words that occurred in my college days. Yes, even adults can misunderstand and confuse words. Instead of calling the famous musical Porgy and Bess, I was saying Porky and Bess. Much to my embarrassment, I was called out on it and was subject to some good ribbing for a while. The words I spoke to myself after this experience was that I should just keep my mouth shut.
Unfortunately, misunderstandings and mixed-up words occur while processing and dealing with grief as well. The pain experienced by such instances is real and can be long-lasting and not nearly as cute as exchanging parmesan for piranha. The grief journey can deeply associate feelings and emotions with the words we hear from others as well as from ourselves. Not all of those emotions can be trusted.
Here are some examples of how you can confuse feelings and words while on your grief journey. It is important to treat yourself with grace while traveling a difficult and often obscured path, realizing that misunderstandings happen – both for you and for others.
Examples of the confusion that can occur for those grieving are often words you speak to yourself:
“I’m alone and cannot survive without my loved one.”
“I am afraid and have nothing to live for now.”
When you hear these expression counter them with:
“I have not had to do life on my own before. But I will survive this because I choose to. God promises to never leave me and I will cling to Him.” (Romans 8:38, 39)
Perhaps there are people who use mixed-up words when they communicate with you. They may be trying to show they care, yet their statements are less than accurate.
“I know just how you feel.”
I call these mixed-up words because they are not totally correct. The person speaking to you cannot possibly know exactly how you feel. They have not had to say good-bye to your loved one. Even if they have experienced grief and loss, their situation is not identical to yours.
“God needed him in Heaven.”
I also believe this last comment is inaccurate as God needs nothing and no one. He is self-sustaining and self-sufficient. To state that God needed Alan in Heaven is false. God loves Alan and yes, I believe Heaven is where he now resides. But God does not cause loved ones to die because they are “needed” elsewhere. While I do not claim to understand everything about death and loss, I do believe and trust that God numbers our days and has a reason and a purpose in all things.
So what do you do when you encounter mixed-up words? Give grace to yourself and to those around you. Realize that most people just are not comfortable around the grieving and lack the knowledge of what to say and how to say it. Hear their heart and embrace the love with which they speak while sifting out the mixed-up words they may express. And perhaps – just perhaps – the words of a small three-year old boy can make you smile. “I can’t find my parmesan!”
Until next time –
(picture used with parent permission)
Let me encourage you to share Grief Letters with those you know walking through loss and sadness. This devotion book is filled with stories of my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief.
Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.
Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674
Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667
E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650
Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.