What do you do when there are no words?


In the wake of Charlottesville, it’s been a hard week for a lot of people. Me included.

An anxious-making week. A depression-making week. An anger-making week.

A week bereft of words, even though people everywhere are doing their best to assign words to it.

But yesterday I was talking with a friend and almost in the same second we both blurted out…

It’s like there are no words.

There’s an emptiness that descends in that space of no words.

A brutal loneliness where some things you thought you knew seem to fly out the window.

Where the ground under you doesn’t feel solid anymore.

Where a nameless grief grabs you by the wrist and says: Come, walk with me for awhile.

So what do you do when there are no words?


  • You sit in the sun for an hour with your eyes closed.
  • You tidy up, rinse the dishes, make the bed, find order in the chaos.
  • You call your sweetheart and feel his voice envelope you like a hug.
  • You grip the kitchen counter, letting out sobs that had stacked up like the dishes.
  • You turn to your pen to release the fears and questions.
  • You play old songs from happier times.
  • You scramble eggs at 3am because you can’t sleep.
  • You water the thirsty plants and feed the hungry cats.
  • You look in the mirror and wonder, how did we get to this?
  • You read poetry and find solace in sad words for times when there are no words.

Of course, I can’t presume to know exactly what you need to do in times like these.

But this week I’ve been thinking of the final words from a poem by Warsan Shire

later that night

I held an atlas in my lap

Ran my fingers across the whole world

And whispered

Where does it hurt?

It answered




Yes, where does it hurt? Maybe that’s the best question to ask when it seems like there are no words.

And if you’re hurting this week, wherever you’re hurting, however you’re hurting, let your wisdom guide you to what will comfort you.

Take care of yourself. Know that you’re not alone. And please, seek help if it all becomes too much.

* * * * *

It is my great joy to offer counseling, therapy and life coaching to women. You can work with me in my Santa Rosa office, as well as by telephone/secure video if you’re outside the area. To schedule a free consultation, click here or call 707-742-9844.

Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

I help women find their way back to their deepest wisdom when they feel like something’s missing in their lives or themselves. On my blog I write about the stories, insights, ideas, and wise words I’ve picked up along the way. Thank you for being here.