Silence is often the loudest noise of all

Silence is often the loudest noise of all

Shortly after my husband, Ted, passed away in August, I said down and penned an article, but after reading it over, I decided against sending it to my editors. I felt that readers might misconstrue what I had written or, more importantly, what I was feeling deep in my heart. I asked the questions, “Why are you so silent? Don’t you know I need you more than ever? Where are you? Were you really never our friends? Don’t you care at all?” I was hurting and I did not know how to express myself or really what to expect from those I loved.

Some seemed simply not to know what to say, so they chose the easiest path. They said nothing. These are good people, people you see every day at work, out playing on the beach, at school, and in your neighborhood. Death scares them and open-faced hurt sends them reeling. They have no words, and they don’t even try to come up with any to comfort or cheer the hurting heart. I really did not care what they said, but I surely did need them to show up, call and say hello, laugh about an old memory, or say, “Hey, I am thinking about you today.”

I was very disappointed in some that I had considered friends of a lifetime. One lady in particular whom I had visited in the hospital when she had surgery, visited her husband when he had surgery, cooked meals for them, and did other menial tasks never called one time. She never said, “I am thinking about you. What can I do help you?” Another young man that I had supported in many efforts and thought the world of never once sent a note or called one time. He was about town and busy enjoying his life, but as far as I know, I had fallen off the earth. I was saddened by the lack of action by this young man of character and dependability. People I have written for over the years never called, wrote, visited or said, “Do you need anything at all? Do you have money for the household accounts until you can get on your feet again?”

Letting it all go, or trying very hard to do so, I had not thought about the issue in several weeks until my good friend Jamie Ellen Willingberg Greer posted an article written by John Pavlovitz in Stuff that Needs to be Said. I read the article and agreed with every point, and then, I happened to read a post by Kellie Comeaux, a young mother whose infant son has been in Texas Children’s Hospital battling RSV and the aftermath for more than a month. Kellie wrote concerning her recent experience with a very sick child, saying she had learned so much about life and death and the value of true friendship. She had found comfort among other parents battling horrible illness and loss. Kellie said, “This experience has changed my life, and I will try to be a better friend to all who need me.”

Whether you are receiving “the silent treatment” because of a devastating illness, financial loss, death, a broken relationship or many other reasons, please realize you are not alone. There are many others with you waiting for that telephone call, note in the mail, e-mail or knock at the door. Some folks simply do not have home training and they do not know how to act or react to sorrow, so they do nothing. It leaves the other person reeling from compounded hurt, the feeling of abandonment that comes with the silence from those they love. “Words can be really cruel, but they cannot hold a candle to silence,” said Pavlovitz.

Even if you find yourself in the position of disapproving of another’s actions, decisions, or life choices, please do not just disappear from someone’s life. You may be the one anchor rope holding them to a place of safety and security. I truly understand not wanting to argue, defend, fight, and be miserable, but have you considered that your complete silence is horrifying and mind boggling to the person receiving it. The hurting person doesn’t know that you don’t know what to say, how to act, what to offer, or how to be there for them. They just know you, too, are gone. It is really a vicious thing to do to another human being. You are forcing the person to grieve yet again and to try to do the work set out for two. The quiet can be a killer in more ways than one.

Pavlovitz wrote after a controversial incident in his own life, “I hear that silence. I notice the quiet. I see the subtraction. People always do. It’s a loud message that comes as a profound absence — of social media comments and weekly calls and invitations for dinner; in faraway gazes that avoid your eyes and in kind words that no longer come.”

If there is someone in your life that you have avoided for whatever reason, if there are kind words you need to express, or if amends need to be made to secure old friendships, may I ask you today to stop whatever you are doing, and make that effort? Reach out, say hello, talk about the weather, ask about health issues, talk about the kids, but for heaven’s sake and ours, and please don’t let the silence continue to scream for you.


Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.