Sticks & Stones

"Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me."

This familiar playground chant is something most everyone of us knows, has chanted in the face of someone slinging hurtful words at us on the blacktop, and probably have even passed down to our children as a defense against school yard bullies.

The only problem is - it's not true. Ironically, it’s exactly the opposite.

Sticks and stones can only break bones, words, however, can destroy.

Think about the most painful memories you have. I imagine they revolve as much around painful words as they do around painful actions. We’ve all suffered the slings and arrows of snide remarks, mean putdowns and cruel epithets hurled at us. Sometimes these word-bombs are dropped on purpose, however, often times they are delivered unintentionally. Regardless, whether intentionally or unintentionally hurtful words do great damage - just ask someone who has gone through mourning.

To a young widow someone will say, “don’t worry, you’re beautiful. You have your whole life ahead of you. You’ll meet someone else.”

To a parent who lost a child another will interject, “your daughter is better off now. She’s with God.”

To a young couple who just suffered a miscarriage another will chime in, “You’re young. You’ll have more children.”

To someone in the deep depths of grief someone will espouse, “everything happens for a reason.”

To a sibling surviving the suicide of a brother another will chime in, “God only gives us what we can handle."

The list of offensive, insensitive, disgusting words spoken to mourners is endless. Trust me, these are not hypothetical examples. This is real life, tragically true, verbal diarrhea which has come spewing out of people’s mouths - and it happens all the time!

Its kinder just to take a stick and whack a mourner across the face than share this kaka.
Its infinitely more compassionate just to find a stone and pelt the mourner in the head than spew this crap.

Sticks and stones, after all, can only break their bones, whereas these words - they will destroy them.

When speaking to mourners - choose your words carefully.
When talking with the bereaved - guard your words closely.
When sitting with someone who has recently lost a loved one, when in doubt, just sit with them in silence.

Baruch HaLevi