We all process grief in different ways. For Jayson Greene, who lost his two-year-old daughter due to a freak accident, it was to take pen to paper. The result is Once More We Saw Stars , a memoir so moving and powerful, it "[restores Greta] ever-so-briefly to the world." Here, Greene argues that there are words to express unimaginable loss, and how healing it can be to use them.
It is universally acknowledged by all who come calling on the grieving that words fail — there are no words. I am lost for words. We cannot possibly express the immensity of the pain in mere language. Standing beneath the awesome cliff face of death, both the grieving and those who try to comfort them are struck dumb.
I wrote Once More We Saw Stars in defiance of this so-called wisdom.
Because of course there are words. There is a word for my daughter; her name is Greta. A brick fell from an eighth-story windowsill and killed her. She was here, and then she was gone, even as I still stand here, looking for her. There is a word for my grief, and a word for my pain, and a word for my love. For everything that happened, and for everything we felt, there is a path, however rocky, to expression. No words. How could there be no words?
If you have lost a child, your words will restore them ever-so-briefly to the world. You can speak her name into the air, even if she does not breathe it; you can tell him of your love, even if he does not hear it. Your words will make your child flicker back alive in the quickening hearts of those who listen. Without words—testimony— Greta disappears from our universe. She ceases to be memory; she becomes vanished matter, nothing at all.
Words exist, if not to fill an absence, then at the very least, to inscribe it. There was a black hole inside of my universe, one that sucked out meaning and life and sound. I corralled that nothing and now it is a thing, a talisman, a memorial, clutched in my hands and beaming at me. She lives, again, every time the book is opened. She has returned to us, she comes down upon us like light rain. What was once a void is a beacon. Properly applied, there is nothing — nothing — words cannot do.
So search for your own words, if you are bereaved, if you feel pain. Write down your pain in whatever form it comes to you, whenever it comes. Perhaps it will begin as a scream -- wordless, yes, but expression. Scream. Let the scream form consonants, vowels. Bite down on your scream until it resembles a story. Tell that story. Tell it. Speak your child back into the world, and manifest your pain, your love.
But never let anyone tell you there are no words.