When Words Become Names

As a writer, I need words to communicate.  And there are many times (like this morning) when I sit down to write and I don’t know where to begin.  I have an idea, a thought or emotion that I want to convey, but I’m not sure from which garden to go out and gather words sufficient for the plate I am preparing.  I can’t draw a picture for you, or play a song.  Words are all I have to use.

I’ve shared the quote by Irish poet David Whyte a few times on this blog. “The language we possess is woefully inadequate for the vastness of the territory into which we have just entered.”  It is a brilliant statement that has guided me since discovering it while traveling in Ireland.  My experience of loss and grief requires a language with which I am not fluent.  I must learn it as I go along.

This is why I’ve chosen to write about my grief journey as it happens.  I’m learning a new language, and I’m using this forum as a means to display my homework. And you get to study and grade it with me.

For the last three months, I have been working with a counselor that understands my sense of shortcoming when it comes to identifying where I felt stuck in grief. I described my dilemma as a jigsaw puzzle.  Most of the pieces are in place. The border is intact, but there are some gaps in the picture and I don’t have the lid to show me what the finished image is supposed to look like. For a long while, I’ve been searching for those missing pieces. And two weeks ago my counselor handed me a fistful of them and said, “I think these will fit.”

And they did.

We had significant conflict that went unresolved when she died.  And those of you who have lost a spouse can bear witness, the feeling of never being able to resolve those issues is hard to manage.  All that I’m left with are questions that will never end up in a conversation in hope that understanding will be met.

My counselor intuitively knows that one of her roles is to comprehend this dilemma, and sit in it with me. While we sit together, she can lead me to know how to turn my insufficient words into powerful names.

My name is Kevin Shinn, but all my life I’m known as Shinn to most of my friends.  When one of my good buddies calls me Kevin, it doesn’t sound right. In that context, my real name is Shinn. That’s the name I respond to.

I’m learning to call my pain by the name it recognizes.

All counselors are not created equal, but the role of counsel is unequivocal. On my own, I am incapable of seeing everything in my heart. Sometimes I need another set of eyes to describe to me what I can’t see, to speak what I cannot say, in order for Truth to set me free. In my case, I need someone to hand me some missing pieces that make the picture on the jigsaw puzzle more complete

Being in this position doesn’t make me weak or somehow insufficient. No one is an island. To think I can figure out this mess of grief all by myself, that’s the thinking that is insufficient. With the help of counsel, I have gone from describing to naming my pain. Despite the unresolved conflict that will never get worked through, I have new power in my hands because I hold new Truth. And Truth will always set me free.

If you are feeling stuck in pain, of grief or otherwise, consider finding a voice that will help you put a name to it. Describing the feeling is the first step. Naming it gives it an identity and makes it much more real. And in the revealing light of reality, pain is far easier to deal with than something hidden in the shadows.

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