I like words. A lot. I spent years as a professional copywriter and often turn to pen (or laptop) to express my thoughts.
But there are times when words fail. Confronted with another person’s sorrow and pain, it’s easy to stumble. The unfamiliar territory of fertility grief can feel particularly hard to navigate. We may fall back on old platitudes of “God’s will.” We may make predictions and promises, “You can have another!” Or, we may just disappear, afraid to reach out and fail.
Here’s another option: Say nothing.
Recently, I came across the story of a chimpanzee named Washoe. One of her caregivers was absent from work for many weeks after a miscarriage. When the caregiver returned, she told Washoe through sign language, “My baby died.” After a moment, Washoe signed the word “cry” (chimpanzees have no tears) and “please person hug,” offering her caregiver the comfort of an embrace.
Her caregiver later commented that this one brief interaction told her more about Washoe than all of her longer, grammatically perfect sentences.
What would happen if we let go of the worry of what to say and were simply present?
What better gift could we offer than crying alongside someone we love?