Monday, January 18, 2016

THE LANGUAGE OF PRESENCE


C.S. Lewis, one of my all time favorite human beings (whom I have never met, but feel I know) writes about a friend who was truly there for him when his beloved wife, Joy, died of cancer.  A renowned academic from Oxford University, Lewis had many friends and colleagues.  When she died, many were there for him, and all were, undoubtedly, well-meaning.  They visited and talked with him, offering them their condolences and words of understanding.  Those who shared his Christian faith offered him words of encouragement.  But it would seem, according to Lewis, all of these words, lovely and articulate as they may have been, left him empty.

It was a friend who stopped by his home one day several weeks after his wife's death, who truly sustained him.  He didn't say anything extraordinary or profound.  In fact, he didn't say anything at all, he just sat down beside Lewis while he grieved, not saying a word, just listening with him in the silence; filling the space with his presence, offering him his own human "being-ness."  No words of apology.  Not one offer of understanding and encouragement.  He just sat with him, bearing the heavy burden of loss in that room, feeling the emptiness with him, allowing the melancholy silence to encircle them both.

Lewis writes that this was the friend who truly understood--who was the blessing to him in his darkest hours.  The loneliness was terrifying, but this friend was there to feel it alongside him.  Two friends, separated by experience, the only sign of life their shared breathing in a room together. Lewis said that volumes were spoken by his friend in the quiet that day... they were, in essence, joined by the language of presence.

In his book entitled A Grief Observed, Lewis writes:  "Imagine a man in total darkness.  He thinks he
is in a cellar or dungeon.  Then there comes a sound.  He thinks it might be a sound from far off--waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away.  And if so, it proves he's not in a cellar, but free, in the open air. Or it may be a much smaller sound close at hand--a chuckle of laughter.  And it so, there is a friend just beside him in the dark."

I have experienced this quite precious phenomenon just a few times in my life, once, when I was just out of college, enduring what I thought would be the worst possible heartbreak of my life.  Nothing seemed like it would ever hold any joy for me ever again.  I had lost the love of my life, a young man who had been my best friend in high school, and my sweetheart for five years beyond, and now, it was over.  I didn't want to hear that I would love again, or that everything would be alright in time.  I didn't want to be told that what I was experiencing was nothing new, but the age old right of passage experienced by nearly every young woman at LEAST once in her life.  I certainly didn't want to hear that familiar adage: "This may be the first heart break, but it certainly won't be the last."

Words are powerful, there is no doubt.  They can help, heal, hinder and harm.  They can also really make you mad--often times when they come with good intentions.  But that day, my good friend and apartment mate Bryn came home from work, saw me crying quietly, and said nothing.  She went to the kitchen, poured two glasses of wine (I was 23 so it was okay!) sat one in front of me, and then sat down next to me with her glass.  She said nothing.  No "I'm sorry," or "That really sucks," or even "He'll be sorry one day." She just sat there next to me, with one arm around my shoulder drinking her wine, and letting me cry.  I'm not sure how long we were there, a half hour, or maybe two, but when I started to talk about the sorrow I felt, and how I couldn't imagine being happy, she just listened.  She held my hand and sometimes nodded in agreement, but she said NOTHING.  She just was.  She was there, like a priest, I guess, listening to me pour out my heart...waiting.   She seemed to understand that truth that sometimes when we try to comfort someone in their suffering, we belittle it, and that is something no one needs in their darkest of moments.

When I'd had enough, she just said, "Let's go out and see a movie.  I'll buy you some cheesecake."
 That was it.  One sentence.  Not much wisdom to be found there, but there was truly an ocean of comfort in her just being there.  Words I don't know how to say and meanings I cannot define were spoken in her presence.

We are human beings, not human doings.  Yet, in the fast-paced, hyper-drive demands of life, we don't act like it.  To be appreciated and honored by someone's mere presence is truly nothing short of a miracle.  We are.  We exist.  And more than that, we co-exist, and when words fail, or there are no words that work to comfort our grief and our pain, it is the presence of one we love that offers all the communication we need.  It's like its own separate language...one that is felt rather than heard.

When my father died, I remember coming home from the hospital, and suddenly finding myself unable to breathe.  His "gone-ness" was overwhelming me.  It felt like a wave was crashing over my head, over and over again, not allowing me a second to process what I had just lost that day.  I couldn't get my head above the water of grief.  It was too much.  I panicked and was hysterical.  I didn't know what to do. That man who had cared for me, taught me, carried me; the man who had so often been my strength and security was gone.  In a world that often seemed like a dark and bottomless void, he was the island. Now, where was my footing?  To whom could I go for that wise, sound, logical and loving guidance?

It was my husband this time who was there.  Somehow, he knew.  He had walked through losing his father, and he knew what I needed to hear more than anything:  Nothing.  He knew there were no words that could make this even remotely close to better.  He helped me up off the floor, took me over to sit, and he just held me and stroked my hair while I cried and shook.  It's not something I like to talk about or share, being so weak and completely vulnerable, but I remember feeling like more than I had ever read or heard in my entire life was being said in that moment.  It was almost as if through him, my father was reaching out to me.  His silence was my comfort--a lighthouse, if you will, reminding me that there was secure footing, and even though this would be one of the worst days of my life, I could still stand on solid ground with confidence.

What does this mean for you?  You are all very young, and I desperately hope that you have not yet experienced a sorrow that eats you alive and leaves you unable to breathe.  But if you have, well, maybe there is some bittersweet gift to be found in that.  Perhaps you are stronger--wiser--and more than that, you may one day find yourself in the role of C.S. Lewis's friend; understanding that when you find a loved one drowning in the darkness of despair, you cannot give them the "right words."  In fact, you won't offer words at all.  You will just be--sharing their air, drinking in the sadness and hopelessness right along with them.  And then they will understand how powerful we truly are, just in our existence, and how there is a wisdom and a truth in the silence.

In his article entitled The Art of Presence, Woods summarizes it perfectly:  "What seems to be needed
here is the art of presence--to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation. Allow nature to take its course.  Grant the sufferers the dignity of their own process.  Let them define meaning.  Sit simply through moments of pain and uncomfortable darkness.  Be practical, mundane, simple and direct."

What is the language of presence to you?  How does it communicate with no words or sound? You don't have to share anything too personal if you don't wish, but this is a language class. There are more and sometimes better ways to speak than with words.  I would love to hear about yours...

There is a sweet music in the silence,
if you really listen,
closely,
carefully, 
deliberately,
you will hear....(Caraway, 2007)




114 comments:

  1. Language of presence to me is when my father sits on the side of the green and watches me putt. When he sits there, usually with his eyes intently watching, as I try not to blow up. It's the silence of the golf course, followed by an intense chewing out on my end if it doesn't go as planned. But there is also beauty in the lack of words, such as the clapping of my parents hands or the flashing of a thumbs up.
    But the ugly truth is in the silent car rides on the way home, from a less than present tournament when I can't even look up. It's the inner feeling of disappointment and I can't even ask for music when we're in the car.
    But it's the little moments like the small smile after a good shot when the language of presence is the best part of golf tournaments.

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    1. Yes-- sometimes tha silence speaks volumes of discomfort too. I am sorry for that. :(

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  2. The Language of presence to me is when my aunt calls to listen to all my personal struggles or petty annoyances of the week. She doesn't say much, here or there she will add a slight bit of laughter, but mostly it is me talking. Her phone calls are perhaps the best part of my week. Simply knowing that someone has by back and is willing to listen, gives me assurance and confidence in who I am now and who I am becoming.

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    1. That's amazing! Your Aunt sounds very special. :)

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  3. I can say that I haven't experienced this language of presence with someone but I have felt it when I go camping with my dad and younger sisters. It is not necessarily them who I feel this comfort from but mostly at night when I can look up at the sky and see all of the amazing stars and planets. It just is jaw dropping to me when I watch the sky as we rotate and the stars are moved into different positions throughout the night. I feel as though all of my problems can’t be any bigger than what I am looking at, the universe. Every single time I have gone camping I have seen at least one shooting star and they look magnificent to me. Yes, they are just a ball of fire going through the atmosphere and eventually burn up into nothing but from afar they look like a beautiful streak across the sky. I guess when I am camping at night I see the sky, stars, and all the other creations as my comfort to the thought that all the things I am going through will eventually “burn up into nothing”. This is when I feel the language of presence, when I am by myself.

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  5. At a mere 17 years old, I have had to endure the kinds of losses that you talked about. The losses that shatter your heart, smother your breath, and force your body to disobey the commands you sent out, to stop crying and shaking.
    The first, almost 7 years ago, when I was 10. My Poppy (Grandpa) had died. He was half-paralyzed before that, after suffering from a stroke. I was young, but I knew exactly what was happening. I cried, and cried, because I knew everything was going to change in my life. My family around me would change, and my cousins would never really know what a great man he had been, and how much I loved him. I missed him everyday for years. There was no language of presence. Only well-meaning comments.
    But then Sophomore year (2013) came around.
    The year that my mother and I, both lost each other. She lost me first, my outward love for her and respect, then my everyday presence; as I left her house.
    But I ended up losing the most.
    Her love, her comfort, her words, her voice, her laughter, her tattoo, her obnoxious singing, her flaws, and just, her, were all gone.
    I lost everything, on a random Monday afternoon.
    My dad took my brothers and I to my grandmas after school. Which was weird, and I knew something was wrong then, having to do with my mom.
    I saw the look pass between my dad, (my mom's ex-husband) and my Nana (my mom's mom) and immediately, I had to hold back tears. Just in case I was wrong. Just in case the look wasn't saying "We're about to ruin them". But I'm not wrong often, and unfortunately. I was right that day. I just sat there, sobbing. Knowing I had messed up so much with her, and she had done the same. And my siblings were trying to comfort each other. And my grandpa, who found her, was trying to say well-meaning things. The rest of my family there, the same thing. They were saying what you're supposed to say. But I couldn't breathe. I could barely see. All I could hear was the screaming from my phone, of the 2 unanswered "I love you" texts she sent from days before.
    I showed up to school the next day, like an idiot, thinking if I was around people I would be more okay. That first day, many people offered me the type of hug that isn't paired with words. The kind that has the person hold on until you're sobbing again, because they know it's what you need. A couple teachers offered that to me, and a few friends. (cont)

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    1. Language of presence has always been found in the tight hugs where you just cry.
      It's been found in the comfort some people can give you even over text, when they are just accepting what you say, sort of like the encouraging nods of agreement your friend offered. In person or not, it helps.
      Actual language hurts me more than anything else in times like that. I have experienced 3 more deaths after these two.
      I have heard it all. I have heard the true "I'm so sorry". I have heard the obligatory "Sorry". These do not hurt me.
      The biggest hurt that has ever come from people not just showing their physical presence, and deciding to talk... is when people have the audacity to tell me, that "Everything happens for a reason." and "God never gives you anything more than you can handle, there's a purpose for this."
      These words will cut me down into my very core, slicing me into jagged pieces, that I then take, and without trying, use them to cut you as deep as you just did to me.
      If these are anyone's go-to words, I have news...
      All a person hears is, "Your mom died for some unknown reason, that God is totally cool with, and you will totally be fine, because this is totally normal."
      Trying hugging them. Try just holding them.
      I have been the person held. I have been the person holding, another. I have been the person offering drops of wisdom. I have been the one receiving it.
      Sometimes I still can't breathe. Sometimes my body still refuses to listen to commands. Always, I can feel and see the shattered parts of me digging into other parts of me. Because sometimes, no amount of language, in any form, can mend someone's wounds back together. It just can't.

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    2. You know more than most your age how awful those words (well meaning as they are) that "they are with God" and "you'll never be given more than you can handle." I am here to testify that I have been given more than I can personally handle and I think many people have. I choose to see that God is crying with me at the state of things, in a world where there is death and loss and hurt. It's the friends who don't try to fix it or make things comfortable for themselves that make a difference. They know they cannot fix a thing. They just listen and are there saying silently "I am here to help you take that next breath and I will be here to help with life continuing when you are ready." I think it's a gift-- something people have naturally or learn through suffering of their own. I appreciate so much that you had the heart and guts to share. You never know what kind of difference it might make for someone!

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  6. I haven't been able to experience this yet in my life, but I am hoping to soon in the future. As I have stated before, my biological father had passed away when I was about 6 or 7 years old, and I never really had the chance to know him. Family problems were becoming a rising issue at the time and his side of the family was very determined to cause the troubles they did. I think my Language of Presence, or moment that is, will come when I can finally go and see his grave, and talk to him, or talk to my other side of the family, the ones that almost ruined my life. Not many people can share the feelings I have with me, even if they have lost a parent, and the anger that I hold within me is overwhelming. I think once I have this moment to cry and see him again, the moment I've lacked for over 10 years, I think ill be able to rest peacefully for once in my short lifetime.

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    1. I hope that you will have the gift of presence, not just in sorrowful times, but in joy, too. I also know that this will make you an amazing friend to someone in your life who may have a tough time. You will understand, and that will mean the world to your friend. :)

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  7. I can only recall one time in my life where I can apply this sort of situation. It was the death of my great grandfather or Grandpa Jack. I very kind, apple pie loving man that I still miss. I had known that it was coming, Grandpa had been sick for a bit and his condition was getting worse. Of course I felt sad when I heard he had died but I never really felt strong emotions about it till his funeral. It was an open casket funeral and I was able to see him for the last time. Upon seeing him that it dawned on me that I won’t see Grandpa Jack anymore (at least in this life). I became quite upset at this concept. I had a hole put in me. My mom and dad both made it easier to deal with. All they did was hug me. I could feel through their love that everything was fine and so was Grandpa. Human touch is one of the greatest was to show affection and comfort to those who need it.

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  8. I think language of presence (to me) is like being able to think the same thing somebody else is thinking. It is when you know somebody so well that you know what they are thinking before they tell you and vice versa. Back when my brother and I were younger, this would happen to us all the time. It was as if we shared the same mind. We always knew what the other was thinking and always agreed with each other. It was almost to the point that at any given time one could ask what we were thinking and the response would be the same (which has happened). However, as we grew older we started to split perspectives and hang out with different types of people and so we have changed from the same person to two people. In one sentence, language of presence to me is two people "sharing" one mind.

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  9. The language of presence mainly speaks to me as multiple things really. Grief can be treated with by social, emotional, and physical comfort. I'm not taking this from any study I'm taking this directly from my heart. The closest tragedy to my family was when my algebra teacher, Mr. Smith passed away.
    He and I didn't know each other for very long, but he was one of my biggest inspirations concerning grades and my self esteem. I met him at my school's "Meet The Teacher" night and I recognized him from the fundraiser Odyssey put on in eighth grade. I told her that I met Mr. Smith and that he talked to me about math and if I would be trying out for the volleyball team. I said yes and that I would. I tried out for the team and to spare the details I didn't make it. I was disappointed, but moved on with the school year. Soon Mr. Smith became sick again and went through chemo-therepy again, for longer periods of time each time he came back he was noticeably weaker but he didn't want us to feel bad for him, so he continued teaching and gave the best he could. I had a feeling that he wasn't coming back, even though verbally I wanted him to return since he had done it three times already. When he did pass away I was with my parents and I remember crying because I was so upset over the news. The following day at school it was so quiet, you could hear people whispering about what had happened and the teachers had no choice but to continue on with their lesson plan. Still I could see the shock on everyone's face and how sad they were that he had passed away.
    My friend and I sang "Lean On Me" for his memorial service that Thursday in front of the school and to me it was like a send off for him, letting everyone take a moment of silence for Mr. Smith.
    Two years later when I was interviewed by my admissions advisor at FIDM, I had my grades inspected and was asked why my grades took such a dramatic curve.I explained that before my teacher passed away, it was hard enough moving to a new high school and dealing with a change in school scenery. When Mr. Smith started getting sick and missing school that's when I began to get worried for him, and I had started to let my grades fall. When he did pass away I felt myself fall down into a self sabotaging tunnel. But after my sophomore year and learning to get my grades back up, I still wasn't able to really talk about my teacher's death. So upon being asked about my teacher I started crying in her office and my parents were on either side of me, being my support as I explained what happened.
    If there was one thing Mr. Smith never let me forget it was this one tip he gave me when I didn't make the volleyball team. "Since you can't change the past, what are you going to do now for your future?"
    I've used those words still to inspire me to keep going. I miss him a lot but I won't let that hold me back further from achieving what I want to keep my eyes on. My Language f Presence moment is that when in a few months when I graduate, I'll be able to think about Mr. Smith and thank him up in Heaven for helping me through my difficult moments in high school.

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    1. What a lovely tribute! Thank you so much for sharing that.

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  10. I can not say that I have ever truly dealt with the sorrow at the level of losing a wife or a father, but I have been there for people who have gone through these kind of situations and I agree the best help you can lend it simply a hug. Most of the time people don't want you to sympathize with them, they just want to know that you are there for them when they need you. It is a struggle to just simply be quiet due to our nature of trying to fix things that are broken, but there is such a beauty between being able to comfort and to be comforted without any words. I for sure, and I think everyone should, just take a moment and truly just listen for once and soak in the sadness without opening our mouths. P.S. Thank you so much for opening up to us and sharing your personal stories. It means a lot to know that you trust us with your intimate feelings and happenings.

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    1. It means a lot to me that you are all willing to share, too. Thank you, Sam!

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  11. It's a bit ironic that to talk about communication without words, we have to use them. My favorite kind of communication is laughter. There are so many kinds of laughter. Hysterical, bitter, hilarious, or ridiculous to name a few. Sometimes the most comforting thing is just to make fun of a situation and laugh at it until you cry. Or howl with laughter, knowing your family is beside you, gets you, and loves you. That's why sometimes laughter means more to me than words. It unites you with whomever you are laughing with. Tears heal you, but laughter gives you hope everything will be okay.

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    1. Sorry, I was logged into another account. This is Gabrielle Freitas

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  12. Throughout my lifetime, I have yet to endure any true heartbreak. The worst event that has happened in my lifetime was when my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimers, but that happened when I was so young and I am not close with this grandma. Although my grandmas diagnosis didn't affect me, it did greatly affect my mom. I was there for her through her grieving and sadness, yet I did not offer words of sympathy. I just listened to her and let her grieve. I was simply there to remind her that she wasn't alone. I believe that this was when I used the language of presence with someone else. I have never experienced the language of presence or its effects, but I hope that someone is there for me like I was there for my mom when I am in need of someone to not speak and just listen.

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    1. I hope that for you, too! I know that must have meant so much to your mom!

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  13. I've never really understood the language of presence until now. It is really amazing how no words can be more comforting than a million words. Thinking back, the language of presence to me has to be moments with my mom. When I found myself in hard times, I would just explain my feelings to my mom. She never really had anything to say about it, what I did wrong or what's going to happen next. We would just stay in the present moment, and let it be. I've never experienced a traumatic loss like losing a wife or a parent, but I have watched others go through heartbreak like so. I always thought that you had to say the right words to others and it was up to you to make them feel better if they are struggling. Now looking back, and reflecting on how it felt to spend time with my mom when going through pain, I know what it means to really be there for someone. Now it makes sense as to why the words that didn't come out of her mouth were so comforting all along.

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    1. This part is great: Now it makes sense as to why the words that didn't come out of her mouth were so comforting all along. LOVE that, Daniela! :)

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  15. I too cannot say that I have lost someone so close to me. I have tried to be there for others but I never can seem to find the right words to say. Saying "I'm sorry" just doesn't cut it in these situations. Obviously, we have all heard the saying "actions speak louder than words", but I always feel the need to say something, to try and comfort them. Next time, something traumatic happens I will try to just be there for others because sometimes we don't want to accept the things that happen to us and people giving advice and commenting on a tough time doesn't ever seem to help. I feel that emotions can be felt no matter what boundaries; seeing and feeling are things that transcend language. Thank you for sharing.

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  16. I have not experienced anything traumatic in my life yet, thankfully. I have seen my best friend and close family members go through really tough times. I have never really thought about how I help them but I realized that with family I don't say much I just hug and sit with them. For example, when my dad lost a close friend of his I would just sit with him and keep him company. But with friends I am always looking for the best words, but usually drawing a blank on what to say. Reading your blog I realized often times they just need someone to be there. I can see the language of presence having a better effect on someone who grieving because that way you can't say the wrong thing, but that person knows your still you're there for them. Although, I feel like just sitting there and seeing someone so close to you hurt so bad, it's hard to not say anything even if that is what they need. This is something I want to work on because it could help me help someone feel better by just being there. As well as this skill helping me in the long run, by not reacting so suddenly, just sitting, observing, not saying anything, and just being there.

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    1. You are right...we want to fix everything, and words fill uncomfortable silence. But that makes us feel better. It has to be about the person who is hurting. I am glad this made you reflect on that. :)

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  17. Language of presence to me is something that will have a better effect during times of grief, and strife. Personally I have not ran into situations like some, but I have helped close friends and family members through times like what you have described. That silent presence has more effect on situations than words ever could, and when I had helped my mother through her brother's death I sat next to her for hours. I didn't know exactly what was happening since I was about 5 but I knew that day when my mom got off the phone and she just walked outside and collapsed, I knew that i had to be there and she couldn't go through this alone.

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    1. What a blessing you were to your mom, and to realize that is what she needed at such a young age--that is amazing. :)

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  18. I remember when I had lost my Godfather who I call everyday just to tell him how my day was. The day that I went to the hospital to visit him was one of the hardest days of my life. Not to long after I had left the hospital he had passed. Everyday I want to tell someone about my day, which is a reminder to me that he is no longer with us. I remember one of my aunts sitting there with me in silence, she said nothing to me,she just sat there. At first I was very confused as why she just sat there and didn't say anything, but now I understand why. The language of presence can have such a great effect when there is someone at your side sharing the silence with you without saying a word and just being by your side.

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  19. I have yet to experience any losses or heartbreaks in my life that greatly affect me. I also haven’t really been on the flip-side, trying to comfort a friend or family member. Because of my lack of exposure to those types of situations, I wouldn’t know what feels right: to talk or to be silent. However, now I have an understanding of which is prefered among most people going through such terrible times. Reading your blog as well as other people’s responses made me realize that silence is sometimes better than words, even if the words have good intentions. Should this ever happen to me, I think I would like someone just being there for me, not trying to comfort me with their words, but with their presence and a hug. Likewise, if this happens to someone I am close to, I will use the language of presence to comfort them. Thank you for sharing your stories and feelings with us, Mrs. Caraway.

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    1. You are most welcome. I am glad that you took something away from this blog that may really help later. :)

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  20. Personally I haven't gone through situations as tough as you described, thankfully, but I have gone through some tough situations. When I get angry or filled with immense grief, it's my instinct to retreat back into my own corner and stay quiet. The last thing I want to do is talk. Certainly the last thing I want to do is respond to other people telling me "it's okay" because words like that seem so repetitive and it's almost as if that person is going by the rules of a "How to Cheer Your Friend Up" handbook. To me when someone is there and cheers you up and comforts you with actions rather than words it reaches another level that can't be explained by words, and you feel it inside of you. Eventually once I get warmed up and comfortable it's nice to tell that person everything just as you were saying, Mrs.Caraway, and have them listen rather than give you a lecture. The language of presence speaks louder volumes to me than the language of english ever could.

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  21. So far through my lifetime I have encountered a couple tough moments that have been hard for me to get through. I’m not going to share them all, but One of the biggest was a couple years ago when my parents were splitting up. There was a lot of painful events leading up to break up, and I can remember a couple nights when I found my self helplessly crying, Candra was there for me. And that was when I realized the power of the language of presence. When felt alone, I didn’t need someone to tell me it would get better or I would get over it, I just needed someone to sit next to me while I cried and Candra, without a word, would just sit with me. And we’d just sit together for hours in silence and it made me feel not so alone anymore. And when I would be ready to talk, I could pour my heart out and without judgment she would just sit there and listen without saying a word. It helped me feel like I wasn’t dealing with everything all on my own.

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  22. Although I (thankfully) have not yet experienced any massive losses in my life, I can understand what is being said about this "language of presence". To me, it seems to be the basal form of human communication. No words, no sounds, no signs, just the simple knowledge that someone else is there, and is acknowledging what you feel. There is also a more specific unspoken message. What a silent presence in the room says is "I understand what you feel. I'm not going to try to stop these feelings, or fill up the dead air with things that you already know I mean, or futilely try to fix the situation. I'm just letting you know that I'm here, and I care". Regardless of whether or not they mean it, this simple act might be the most comforting thing in the world to someone who has experienced a loss.

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  23. About two years ago my Grandma passed away. I had grown up going to her house and just chatting with her for hours. She was such a strong lady. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and she slowly forgot the people around her. It hit me the most when my father, who she raised, walked into the room with a hat on and she asked for him to introduce himself. Instead of introducing himself he simply walked out and removed his hat, she recognized him then but something that simple made her forget her own son. Once she passed away I never sat with anyone in silence but simply dealt with the grief over multiple nights alone sitting in silence under the stars. The language of presence doesn't mean much to me but I understand it. We are social creatures and so just having someone there with you to sit in silence with, is comforting.

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  24. I can recall times in my life when I just ached. Times when I just felt alone. I think we all go through things, big and small, that make our stomachs twist and our hearts hurt.
    My mom is usually the person present for me in these hard times. I cry and she just holds me. I vent (a lot) and she just listens. Sometimes that is the most important thing we can get from someone. Their willingness to be there for us no matter what. I sometimes get mad when my mom doesn't have anything to say. I expect her to make things all better but through reading this have realized that I do feel more okay after crying with her than I do crying alone in my room.
    Silence is so powerful and I loved your quote at the end because it is true. I went hiking with my family on Monday in Sabino Canyon and the most beautiful sound was when no one was talking and all I could hear was our shoes on the gravel and the water running down the creek. (Not complete silence but no talking.) I had to stop for a second and just take a deep breath because of the powerful feeling that came over me. Moments like this are the happy ones that also have power in presence.

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    1. Nature is a perfect example of the mysteries of silence and all that it can say. :)

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  25. The language of presence for me is to be alone or be alone with someone. And what I mean by that is that I would rather just be by myself not talking and just taking everything in or having someone to be with me while not talking about what happened. I feel the best way to get over something is to overcome that yourself whether someone was there for you or not, if you're not ready to talk about it, then the person shouldn't say anything. I know someone who went through something recently and they were just so upset and I wanted to help them. So, I hung out with them the next day and rather than talking about what happened, we talked about other things to get their mind off of things. I wanted to remind them that life goes on and we just have to embrace what life throws at us. So rather than talking about serious things, we talked about weird, dumb stuff that would make us laugh and he needed to laugh.

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  26. The language of presence is something I value a lot. I have lost people close to me and I will admit, I took it hard but thats not one of the times I need someone there with me, comforting me. There was one time when I just needed my best friend at the time's presences next to me. I found out that I had a mass in my nasal cavity and they didn't know by looking at it if it was cancerous or not. Thank God it wasn't cancer and it was just a mass from my wisdom teeth. But the fact of not knowing for a week after the biopsy that my world could be flipped in an instant. I just told her I needed to see her and we just sat and ate food for like an hour then we watched movies and went to the park. I did break and started crying at the end, but not because I was scared, but because she didn't ask questions, she just helped me the way she knew I needed it. But sometimes thats the best medicine is just having a person there no questions asked just being there doing what you want.

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    1. How frightening! I have been through something similar. It is weird how when you are living in the unknown with your health, there is a feeling of disconnection from everything that is alive and well, and that is SO frightening. I am so glad you are okay, and someone was there for you!

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  27. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the language of presence. Lewis talks about having someone just sit with you in times of great loss and I feel like I would not like this. Being a very self conscious person, I think I would rather just be alone in times of loss than have a person there. I don't think I would want most people to see me in a broken state, I would want to heal first so I wouldn't have to involve others in my pain. I think that the language of presence to me would not be having a person there next to me, but really just letting me be in their thoughts. So, I guess in a way I do like a language of presence... but from far away!!!

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  28. The language of presence for me is being able to be with a person without having to make small talk or pretend to be something we aren’t. There are few people in my life that I truly feel comfortable sharing such an experience. I am someone who can’t easily talk about my issues, I bury my problems deep down. While advice is nice to get sometimes, my experience is it is usually someone trying to make the situation less awkward for them not the person who needs it. I’d rather be with someone and cry or whatever I need and just sit with me and listen. Of course you can’t do this with everyone and that’s what makes the language of presence so special. But I also believe it doesn’t only have to happen in times of crisis. There are times in your life you are with someone and that’s all you need, like on a car ride or sitting together under the stars (so romantic), and that is even more special in my opinion.

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    1. Yes--it certainly does not have to be only in tragedy. It can be in love, and joy too. I think this part of your post really hits it: While advice is nice to get sometimes, my experience is it is usually someone trying to make the situation less awkward for them not the person who needs it.
      We should all remember that.

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  29. The language of presence to me is when you are with someone in silence. No words are exchanged, but you both are in the same room keeping each other company. My mom used to babysit a girl named Ava. She was like my little sister. She was with us since she was born. Her parents were our neighbors and they worked a lot so Ava spent a lot of time with us. She was a part of our family. Then one day when I was in the car, my mom was driving me to school and Ava was with us. I remember my mom telling me in the car that this was going to be her last day with us, because she was moving to Washington. Ava was only five, but those five years she spent with us we had gotten really close. When my mom told me the news that she was moving I came to realize that, that was the last time I would see her. I had no words, I knew that I would miss her so much. I could see the pain in my mom's eyes because she raised her like her own daughter. When I got home from school, she was gone. My mother and I were both there for each other. We did not speak at first but the language of presence was worth much more.

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  30. I have never been devastated like that. I've lost two of my uncles, but I wasn't very close to either of them. I don't cry very often or easily, and I've never felt that overwhelming despair.

    The thing is though, I do know the language of presence. I know how soothing it can be to sit with a friend, and just be together without any words. For me, it can be a relief, because I don't have to talk or put on a mask or be someone that I'm not. I can be silent with my thoughts, while still knowing my friend is beside me and accepting me and the fact that we don't have to talk to be friends. I've had times where I was sad or angry and I just wanted to cry and my friends allowed me to do that without meaningless words that wouldn't have done anything. Words do a lot, but sometimes silence can do more.

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  31. The language of presence is something I've never thought about a lot because I've personally never really had any major experiences with it. It's cool to think that there are other, and sometimes more effective, forms of communication that we have at our disposal. It may even be the most effective form when used in the right situations. To know that another human being is relating to you and you're not completely alone can be extremely comforting. Words are overused and are already heavily saturated by the world we live in. Sometimes it's nice to stay away from words and the language of presence proves that there are limits to what words can do no matter how they are strung together.

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    1. Love your ending reflection...we can be amazed by words and their power when strung together well, but sometimes they fail.

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  33. I had never really realized it before reading this, but it is true that it's more comfortable when someone says nothing. Thinking back to the few tragic experiences I have experienced,(Thankfully I have experienced very few) it has always been the person that said nothing, but was simply there that comforted me most. In October of 2015 my father was in an accident and almost lost his life. When I was told at first I wasn't really scared, I was simply surprised. I knew that I had to be strong for my younger sister so that I did not scare her. When I arrived at the hospital I soon found out that it was much worse than I was told on the phone, and that I was lucky my father was still with me. That is when the gravity of the situation really hit me and I was upset. Luckily, a coworker of my fathers, and a family friend who had been notified when I was, was also at the hospital. He spoke through the language of presence and calmed my sister and I down. It was a scary time and it really made a difference just having him there. In the future I will try to be the one there for people when they need it in this way because i understand how much it helps.

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    1. I am SO glad your father is okay!! That is so scary! I am also glad there was someone who understood what you needed was there.

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  34. I've always believed in just physically being there for people can mean so much more than words. When someone is going through a rough time or a personal battle, it's reassuring to know that there is someone who is there when you need them and when you're ready to talk to them. I personally have taken that very seriously and whenever I have a friend going through a hard time, I like to make the effort for them to know that I am there for them when they are ready. I believe when dealing with heavy emotions such as grief, each person needs to overcome that emotion on their own at first until they are ready to let people in. Knowing that someone is physically sitting next to you, ready for you to be there for them is calming within itself.
    This could be a positive thing as well. Simply showing up to someones game or performance can speak miles, even if you don't say anything to them afterwards. The fact that they were there for you speaks miles more than a text message or even a "You're a good (insert talent or athletic skill here)"

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    1. You are so right! Our actions- even those of just being there--will always speak louder!

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  35. I've read about the experience described by C.S. Lewis before, and it was powerful and beautiful. At the same time, it seemed like an artifact from an older and nobler world, and I didn't really think of it as the sort of event that would happen with people I knew personally. Your shared experiences combined with the retelling of his insight into the language of presence have changed that, making it into a perceptible component of reality. Unfortunately, I wasn't always aware of this power. My lifelong crusade has featured prominently the use of my own mastery of words to comfort others as they face a variety of challenges, and consequently it has been a long and frustrating life thus far. There are simply too many situations where words have no power to help at all, and trying too hard and too often to fit a square peg into a round hole ends up irritating both parties involved and being entirely counterproductive.

    I've had some deeply saddening losses in my lifetime, but none that held quite so great a power over me as the ones you shared. I know that in the best of times and the worst of times, the most powerful experiences for me were not because of anything that was said, or anything that I could describe clearly for someone else, but rather because of the vast presence of another human being, just having someone there who wasn't going anywhere, who would be there as long as I needed them and would still be there the next day.

    I believe that the power of presence is what is at the heart of all relationships. Words, as frighteningly powerful as they are, are not unique to any one person. We could just as well write love letters to ourselves and talk to ourselves all day if words alone were what we sought from others. Similarly, someone could try to talk you through a problem all day long without ever making you feel that they understand what you're going through. It is by their attentive and considerate presence that the concentrated power of their spirit pierces the darkness and tells you that there is a world both before and after your suffering, that you are not alone in a deep and impenetrable cellar of despair.

    The greatest gift any one of us has is our presence, because it is the only thing truly unique to us, and understanding that power will allow us to help our loved ones when they most desperately need it.

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    1. So beautifully expressed. Yes, it is our gift to the world that can never, ever be replaced. It is a communication that is profound. :)

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  36. The heartbreaks I have felt have been due to numerous reasons, that are too heavy for me to discuss, but shaped me into the person that you see today, yet I am constantly evolving. Through these times, there has been one person that is constant throughout that has made me feel better, and as I have grown up two other people.My dad and I are the same person, we react to things in the same way, and deal with our emotions in similar ways , because we don't like to be seen as weak, so we keep a straight face and attempt to move on. But for the times that I just couldn't take it, and needed to break down, he was the one that would let me cry on his shoulder and let met me vent.Through his 'language' I could tell he was there for me and that really means a lot. The two other people do the same thing, we let each other spill what they need, and just sit and enjoy each others company. Sometimes its a phone call, or super long text messages. The fact they are willing to hear my problems and just listen is amazing. I know that those are the people that will always be there when I fall to pick me up. And that means the world to me, because even at the young age of 15 I have had grown adults that have lied to me about things that have made me loose all respect towards them. I have been used for my lack of experience and child like innocents. Once I realized the situation, I decided to 'grow up', and became unable to trust people as easily. Without the presence of those few people, I learned that I can still be who, I am, and not be completely sheltered. So, with all that has been said, I greatly appreciate the presence of 'still language', because, some times silence is the best healer of a broken person.

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    1. LOVE your label of "still language." That is profound. Yes, you are right...silence can heal us. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  38. I remember a time when the language of presence was immensely comforting in a time of deep pain.

    I always told myself I would never waste tears on a boy. But the day I realized he wasn't into me anymore, I found that sometimes crying is the first step to recovery.

    I poured my heart out to my parents that day about what I was thinking and feeling. Usually, I go to my mom with my issues, but this time it was my dad who held me while I sobbed. I buried my face into his white shirt and just cried while he stood there holding me, silently. That experience was one of the hardest I've gone through. The protectiveness, support, and love I felt from just being hugged helped me to release a lot of anger and confusion.

    I know the language of presence will follow me throughout my life through many circumstances. There will be many times friends and/or family help me cope through hard times by being there for me. However, I also want to be the person, the friend, that hugs or holds those who need it. I pray that, in that moment, I will refrain from offering advice and just be present.

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    1. I am so glad your dad was there for you. Hold on to that forever. My dad was a rock to me, too. What a gift.
      I am also glad that experience made you wiser about how to be there for your friends and family. :)

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  39. The Language of Presence is silence. When someone is just there with you, there is only silence. I think the reason why this silence communicates with us so well is because we barely hear it. We are constantly bombarded with noise. We have movies, tv shows, music, school, commercials, traffic, etc. We can never seem to escape all the noise the world throws at use. In the language of presence, however, silence is there and it is refreshing. Yes we are hurting, but hearing the silence feels good because we know it’s the truth that we are hearing, the words that no one else could ever say to us are being said to us. In the silence, you just know and it brings a peace that helps us in hard times which is why we appreciate it so much when someone just sits with us. It is peaceful and comforting, knowing someone’s there with you and that is all you need to hear or know.
    When I was ten, my grandma and last grandparent passed away from cancer. She had it for about 18 months before she died, but until about four months before her death I didn’t really know what was going on. I heard my parents and sister speak about it, but I thought she would be fine. Even after I realized what was happening was bad and she died I didn’t fully understand what it meant (I was very naive and oblivious at 10 years of age), my dad did however. My dad lost his father the year before and now his mom and he was crying. I had never seen my dad cry before and honestly it was scary. No one spoke from my family at the memorial, only friends did (which meant a lot), but none of us spoke. You couldn’t, there was no way to speak about it. My mom, comforted my dad and just sat there with him, and my sister and I sat there unsure of what to do or think. As the months went by and I matured, I began to understand what happened and would have my moments of silence before I fell asleep, in the silence. Ultimately that is what comforted me, I could cry and not feel ashamed, I could begin to understand my loss and grieve. True no one was with me, but I knew in the other room my family was there and because of that in the silence I felt comforted with their presence.

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    1. That is lovely. Thanks for sharing that. Seeing others suffer is scary and hard and uncomfortable and all those things. I love that you saw that there was no way to speak about it. When words fail, presence is all we have.

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  40. I have been through a lot of loss in the last 18 years. It wasn't until two summers ago, though, that I felt the language of presence. I was going through a lot that summer. In the months previous to the summer I lost my uncle and both of my grandmas. Those were really hard losses for me as I was close with all of them. Not long after my uncle passed, my father was diagnosed with throat cancer. It was all so much to deal with. I had heard the typical "I'm sorry for your loss" and the "your dad will be better soon" but it wasn't until the summer that I felt the language of presence. I was in Minnesota for camp counselor training and I remember we were discussing our biggest struggles in life. When it was my turn to talk I poured my heart out and everyone just listened. They were just there and that meant the world to me. I have very close bonds with everyone I go to camp with and I feel so healed just being in their presence. Even to this day, just being around my camp family heals all my wounds and makes life seem a little easier.

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    1. WOW. You have experienced a great deal of loss in such a short amount of time. I will keep your dad in my thoughts, Rumor. I am so glad you had that time of healing. What a gift that was!

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  41. The language of presence to me is when you are with someone in silence. I have heard C.S Lewis experience before while having a conversation with a dear friend of mine. The same friend I have had my own experience. Although I've experienced the pain of heartbreak and loss of relatives/friends very close to me. I have never felt so much comfort from someone not too long ago. I have known someone for 4 years now. One night he called me asking if I wanted to go out. He knew something was wrong. I remember towards the end of the night we where sitting in his car on my drive way listening to music we have never heard before. I told him everything that was going on and didn't say a single word. When I was done, he raised the volume of the music and we sat in his car for at least half an hour doing absolutely nothing but listening to the music. We need these kind of friends in your life.

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    1. Your friend sounds amazing. :) Sounds like the perfect comfort.

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  42. The language of presence to me is when you are able to connect with someone without words. When a friend comes to me with troubles I try to not tell them things I wouldn't want to hear. Or things I wouldn't want to believe if I was them like "don't cry" or "this isn't worth it." I like to make them comfortable and vent to me knowing that I will not judge them and that there is a greater connection in my presence that's far more powerful than words they've heard a thousand times before. When others comfort me I find it frustrating when they keep questioning me or say things that don't sound convincing, even to them. I think when someone is upset you need to hold them or give them some space and overall just be there so they know that no matter how bad the situation is, you won't be pushed away or leave them to continue to feel misery alone.

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    1. What a blessing you are to your friends that you realize this! Thanks for being there for them and enduring uncomfortable silence. :)

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  43. I remember only one moment in my life that I feel has impacted me greatly. The most traumatic thing I went through was when my uncle died of cancer five years ago. This impacted me the most since I understood everything that was going on. I saw him slowly disappearing from our lives and his own. And it pained me to see him suffering. I remember driving to the hospital that night, in the backseat, sobbing because I knew that this was his last day with us. That was the worst day of my life. And I hope never to go through something like that again. Those last few days consisted of the “language of presence”. It was quiet because we knew if we talked about it, we would cry and wouldn’t be able to stop. But just thinking about it was enough. I remember sitting on the hospital floor next to his children and not saying a single word. Next month is his anniversary.

    I think the language of presence is better at healing. I understand it because it is hard to talk about something so traumatizing when you are crying. Sometimes talking makes this so much worse and more painful. In hard times like these, you may just need a hug or a shoulder to cry on. While, “Sorry for your loss”, reminds you of what you’ve lost.

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    1. Yes. People who understand that sometimes, words CAN'T make it better, and trying to use them only belittles our suffering.

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  44. On a day to day basis, I'm a talkative person. Usually, when someone isn't talking to me, it isn't a good thing. And when someone is upset, i usually try and talk them out of it. I hate people telling me that it's gonna be okay, or it's gonna get better because maybe it won't, so it doesn't make sense for me to do it to someone else.

    I remember a time was I was little and my best friend was Haley Rhodes. We were inseparable. Believe it or not, I was kinda shy at a young age so I didn't make friends very easily. I remember Haley coming up to me on the playground and asking if I wanted to swing with her. Ever since that day, we were as close as any 6-year-olds can be. Even though we were so young, I thought I had my best friend for life. One weekend, Haley went camping with her family and they were off-roading on their quad. They had hit a bump and she went flying off....Haley died that day.

    I remember going to school that Monday and sitting on the floor while our teacher told us what happened. It was stuffed animal day and I remember screaming and crying into my pet snake while everyone just stared at me. They sent me to the counselors office where she kept trying to talk to me and get me to talk but I just wanted to be left alone. My mom came and picked me up from school and she took me home and just held me in her lap. She may have said a couple things, but I can't remember. I just remember her being there for me. I felt so much better sitting in her arms and crying than I did talking to a counselor or anyone at all. That's the language of presence to me.

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    1. Wow. Yes, I can relate, I am sad to say. I lost my best friend when I was five. THough I was little, I remember it so clearly. His name was Kurt and he was everything that was good in the world. He died in the hospital of pneumonia because of doctor negligence. It didn't hit me though until three years later when I went to visit his grave. I had not been allowed to attend his funeral, which I believe was a mistake, but an understandable one. It cut so deeply that I couldn't stay on my feet. I just kneeled at his grave and cried. My mom stayed there with me, her hand on my shoulder.

      It happened to my youngest, Noah, as he watched his best friend in preschool lose his baby sister. Noah attended the funeral, and saw the tiny casket. For him, he had difficult questions like "Where is the baby going?" "Is the baby in that box?" "Won't the baby be scared out there buried in the dark?" He was very disturbed. I had to calmly take him aside, address his questions as honestly as I could, no sugar coating, and then I held him in his fears for his best friend's sorrow and loss. It was full circle from Kurt!

      I am glad your mother was there for you on that day. It makes no sense, and there is no logic to the death of a child, but perhaps you will have a "Noah" someday to comfort, and he/she will be comforted because you understand.

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  45. The language of presence for me is emotional communication rather than physical communication, no words just silence that fills the void of pain in some way I just do not understand. I guess you can say the silence is a sort of outlet to heal without telling someone "you'll be okay". I am very grateful that I haven't had much grief in my life. I can only remember one time when the language of presence has been so powerful.

    When I was thirteen my great-aunt Julianita (I am name after her) had passed away from old age, she lived to the age of 84. Her passing hurt my grandmother the most since that was her last sibling who was still alive. Especially since had died when she was on her way to Mexico to see her before it was too late. I didn't know her that well, I had only met her once when I was seven but I felt my heart shatter when I found out. I cried for a few days, even though I didn't know her I felt a connection to her. My mother was my rock. She's always been there for me on my worst days to comfort me. During this situation she was tough for her mother, and my mother was tough for me. She didn't say much since I could tell she was in grief as well but she hugged me and her presence made me feel like everything was going to be alright. The language of presence has an affect of its own, and brings you at peace with yourself.

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    1. I love that you mention it is a language we cannot fully understand. We really do need to learn to accept that there will be things we don't fully comprehend, but we can marvel at it.

      I think you and your mother were there for each other, and that was powerful. :)

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  46. The most prominent language of presence I have experienced in my life is my acting. It feels so great to share with your family and friends the character that you have been sculpting and constantly changing for three months at a time. That semi-silent validation of the audience clapping, friends and family smiling (or even crying) makes all of the work worth it. The fact that my loved ones are there for me physically means so more than words.

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    1. Great point. I never thought of that, but yes...so true!
      Gwyn shared that the best and most rewarding moment for her when she played Juliet is how silent the audience was when she had her silent, action only moment of Juliet's grief and suicide. It actually fed her performance. Captivating an audience and making them sit in silence is a great example!!

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  49. (This is Hunter by the way, Google wont let me use my topamail so Im doing this...)

    Something many of you may know about me is that I lack the position of a father in my life. That is one thing that I have made pretty clear. Not only that but a big majority of my most of my most influential family members just refuse to be there for me when I need them, they just run away fromantic me. So when we talk about the power of people being there for you, it's sort of a sensitive subject for me. I was reading some of the other entry's on this blog and they talk about their fathers being there for them. When I see their siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles protecting them and always rooting for them I get a little sad. I have some SERIOUS abandonment issues and I absolutely hate being alone, maybe that's what contributes to my hyper extroverted personally. I don't know. In honesty the only person who has ever been there for me since the beginning had to have been my mom. For years now she has been the only real family I have. Putting up with my crap all the time and learning to live with it. She has been my #1 cheerleader since from the start. I can only give her the credit for making me the way that I am. She was there for me when literally every one of my other family members ran away from me. My mom is the most important person to me.

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    1. You have such an amazing mother. I am glad you have the faith you do to walk you through this in the silence. You do have a father who is proud of you, and loves you more deeply than we can ever understand. I know that you hold that in your heart. But that doesn't make it hurt any less that there is that feeling of abandonment and betrayal. You were betrayed. Absolutely. And there is no excuse or words that makes it better or okay. But I guess I would just offer that humans are broken and do horrible things to hurt each other in that brokenness. I am so glad to see that you recognize your mom is there --her very presence is love. :)

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  50. My family is very talkative, like really really talkative so a lot of them don't know or understand just being there and not saying anything. I've learned over the years that my family is really good at making the situation worse or speaking empty words. I still remember this one time when my dad was trying to comfort me about the absence of my biological, he said "I can't say I know how you feel because my mom has always been there for me" the he said something about it being okay because I have a step mom. For some reason I didn't find these words comforting at all, in fact they made me feel worse. However, even with my chatting Cathy family there is always one person I know will always be there to offer me her presence and only that, My sister Erika. She seems to understand that when you don't know what to say just stay silent, she is always there for me whenever I shed a tear. Even with my big mouth I have also been able to offer just my presence. I am usually the go to girl it seems in my family when one needs to spill thier guts with no judgement what so ever. I remember being there for my aunt as a small child just holding her when she was mourning the death of her best friend and love of her life, they were about to finally pursue a romantic relationship with each other after so many years. She was in so much pain that night that she could barley breathe as a kid I didn't know what I could do or say so I just held her while she wept on the ground rocking back and forth.

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    1. You understand what she needed from you in that moment--partly because you did not get that when you needed it.

      A lot of the chatter is because we want so desperately to fix everything for someone in pain. Oh, how we need to just accept that we can't, they are allowed their suffering, and we need to just be there.

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  51. I like to think that sometimes, the language of presence is the best language of all. It's actually very important to me. I'm a person who has trouble with words, and I get really frustrated by trying to communicate. That's why I'm so happy to just hug my friends when I see them and listen to their conversations, letting them know that someone is interested in their frustrations, victories, mundane stories, and tough times. To me, the language of presence is a major part of my vocabulary, and it often translates to just sitting there, listening and understanding.

    But in all honesty, I wasn't always like that. If you ask some of my friends who have known me for quite a while (grade through middle school), I wasn't always the kindest person. I was rough, careless, didn't think before I spoke, and frankly more than a little unkind and not very thoughtful. But, in my freshman year (Dec. 2013), I got called out of class and happily strolled up to the front office, thinking I had forgotten a doctor's appointment. It turned out that my Granny, my sole grandmother, the one who had taught me how to be a proper lady, to make the BEST chicken pot pie, and introduced me to the wonder of old movies, was in the hospital again, but this time it was serious. We spent the whole day waiting, and most of the following day, in a closed room. We didn't speak much, but instead drew strength from one another's presence. She never woke up, so when I visited her in her room, I was simply. . . there. There was no need for words, just that I could be there for her. Through all of that, in all of the tight hugs after it all ended where I'd be greeted dry but come away leaking like a faucet, I reflected and decided that the presence I'd felt was what I wanted. I was not the person I wanted to be; I was shallow, unkind, and didn't really convey much. So, I decided I'd be more understanding, thoughtful and quiet, thus learning the language of presence.

    Today, I try to be present. When my dad comes home from being away from us and working in another state all week, I sit with him every night (yes, I'm sixteen and proud to say I still love cuddling my daddy!). In the car, I prefer to listen to my mom and bestie of 10 years (Kyle) talk about their days. Recently, my mom lost a friend at a young age, so I decided to be there for her by accompanying her to the memorial service and holding her hand throughout. While my silence may be mistaken for sorrow, pain, or disinterest, or I give a random hug, please don't take offense. I'm just trying to empathize, understand, and listen.


    "I stopped trying to be perfect when I realized it's enough to be present."
    ~Curtis Tyrone Jones

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    1. I LOVE the quote at the end. I also love that you are reflective here on where you have been, and how you are becoming the person you want to be, and truly are inside.

      It's okay to like to cuddle with your dad at any age. I miss mine everyday!

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  52. The language of presence speaks volumes and moves mountains for me. When I feel upset, when I want to cry and acknowledge my pain or sorrow, my immediate reaction is to isolate myself. For one, I do not like appearing to someone in that vulnerability, and two, I like to be the strong one. I like to be the person to know what to say, and how to help fix others when they are down, or overwhelmed in pain. That is why when I'm the person who is sad, hurting, or emotional, I would rather not share it. Though I'm sure there is farther more painful situations that one may have to endure in life, one of the vaguest situations I've been in was when I truly came to appreciate the language of presence was. It was after a football game, and I remember I saw something at the game that I really, didn't want to see. I was heartbroken, and when I look back on it, the situation was so small in the grand scheme of things. But I had seen something that had broken my heart and made me upset. I remember I ran back to the car to keep anyone from seeing me cry, and my friends trailed behind me. When we were all in the car, I didn't think for a split second if I really wanted to make a fool of myself and cry, that night, I just did. I was truly sad. I remember they all listened to me yell and sob, and while none of them said anything wise or enlightening, I remember the lift I felt off my chest knowing they were just there. Not that they had much of a choice, I had to get home with them, but I knew they felt my pain too, and that they were going to be supportive. On the ride home, I laid in one of my friends laps and cried the whole way home, while they played music and sat in silence. When I was done, even though they said nothing, I felt like I was going to be okay, and that I had them there for me. It didn't take bagging on the guy, wise words, nothing complicated, for me to feel better. All it took was them being there. I was alone with them, and I couldn't have been more grateful for their presence on that night.

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  53. The language of presence for me is when I can go to a friend and talk to them about everything I feel that is going wrong in my life. They just sit there quietly. They don't make a sound. They just let me rant to them. Sometimes they will say a few words or so but simply knowing that someone cares enough and is willing to listen makes me feel confident in who I confide in and tell everything too. For me the language of presence would be having someone there just quietly listening to me and comforting me.

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  54. Its interesting to hear what my peers have to say about this, and i truly loved reading all of their comments. It's different for me, to hear about these things, because I am naturally not an emotional person. When I am sad, i just tell myself to get over it and eventually I move on. I moved around quite a bit when I was younger, because my parents were traveling nurses. Now that we have settled down, into a place where both my brother and I can get used to, I have finally a way to answer this question. I don't necessarily need someone here for me when I am sad. But presence means something to me, but over a period of time. When you become good friends with someone, its easy to find yourself going to them for your problems and knowing that they will be there. For me, its knowing that someone with be here for me now, and ten years down the road. Although I am thankful for the friends I have now, I think I appreciate the presence of those who have and will always be there for me (:

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  55. I never really acknowledged the language of presence. It just seemed like one of those things in the world where it is known by many, but never given an actual name or title. I understand how powerful the language of presence may be and I myself experienced it once when my grandpa died and my dad just held me. It is a very strong feeling when you have someone close by to just reassure you that you are not alone, but I feel like it may also depend on the situation, because at times it may be better to actually give people those few words of encouragement that they may need to lift them up.

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    1. Great point. Timing is SO important...and knowing your loved one or friend.

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  57. On January 12th of this year, I lost a loved one. He had cancer in his lymph nodes (which is very rare), he had acquired mrsa in his blood, and his kidneys failed him. Slowly, but surely, the cancer spread throughout his entire body. Before Christmas, my family and his believed he was getting better. Then, he started getting really sick really fast. Too fast. He was in the hospital before New Years. Finally on Sunday the 10th, I visited him in the hospital. He couldn't speak much and the light hurt his eyes. He had open wounds all over his body from tumors that had burst open (He also developed skin cancer on top of everything else). His wife, Andrea, is an amazing woman, we talked quietly while Greg (loved one) rested. She thanked me for coming, and thanked me for bringing him a deep dish pizza (he had never had one and wanted to try it) since I work at Little Caesars. I laughed and didn't think much of it, until Monday evening. The doctors told Greg and Andrea that he wouldn't make it out of the hospital. Greg decided it was time for him to go home. My parents are best friends with Greg and Andrea, they were like siblings. They stayed at Andrea's house all night on Monday. After school on Tuesday my mom asked me if I wanted to see Greg, I said yes of course. I'm glad I went to see him that day. I arrived at his house at 8:05pm, he looked like death already. I didn't say a word, just stood beside his bed and watched him breathe with difficulty. He looked so different. I looked at Andrea and started crying, I couldn't believe what was happening. I left their house at 8:45pm and got home at 9pm. I got a phone call from my cousin at 9:15pm that he passed away, we stayed on the phone for a good ten minutes just crying. He passed away at 9:05pm. I wish I told him something, thanking him for everything he has done for me, or at least that I loved him so much. I regret that a lot. I went to work yesterday and I had to hold back tears when I saw the deep dish. Anything that reminds me of him, gets me really worked up. I guess I wasn't emotionally prepared for any of it, but then again, who ever is? In fact, it's been the hardest week and a half of my life. I can't believe he's actually gone. For me, coping with this situation has been hard, I barely talk and that's unusual for me but I feel like if I say a word, I'll just cry and won't be able to stop. Luckily for me, I have friends that understand my silence. They understand my pain and tears. All they have to do is sit next to me and hold my hand or hug me tightly, and let me cry. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the condolences offered by everyone but it's not the same as silent actions. Those actions are how the language of presence are formed for me.

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    1. I hear you, and your sharing of your pain really moved me, too. I am so grateful you had friends there to be there for you in a time that has no words that will ever make sense of it, or make it better.

      Sending you a hug...

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  58. The language of presence, for me, is something difficult to wrap my head around. There is a certain familiarity when you are described its feeling. Like someone with words on a monitor are forcing your brain to bring back memories of when the same sensation touched you. You feel the presence of another person, you know the relieving feeling it can provide, the comfort, the reinsurance. Reading Lewis’ story really touched me. It made me look back at times where I seeked family to talk about problems. How good it felt just to unload all your woes onto someone and have them listen. It feels personal. Like one person you're talking to is absorbing this knowledge and understanding. It's amazing how different you feel about a situation after you’ve talked about it. Bottling these feelings on the inside is often self-destructive. Getting something off your chest is the number one way to deal with a problem. It’s the first step, and the most crucial one in overcoming obstacles. It be grief, worries, problems, or just something you need to share with another person who loves you.

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  59. The language of presence. I can't say there has been a time when someone has done this for me and I have very seldom been in a situation where I offered my presence to others. The only times I can recall having given it to others were both with my mom. Although as mentioned in her blog I feel my dad offered her that a lot more in the situation where her dad died. During that time we were in the hospital, not a lot of words were said, just comfort. I remember I was mostly thinking how we were all going to get through the moment. It was a very sad time, especially for my mom. There was another time were I, myself, was able to offer the language of presence to my mom (at least I think this counts). During Christmas Break, my mom was battling her vertigo caused by this one thing she lives with (I don't really know the term for it) but it wasn't a great time for her during a time that's all about family and having a good time. On Christmas Eve, everyone was about to leave for the church service and my mom was still not feeling well at all. As we went out to the car I was a little reluctant and worried for her and my dad seemed to notice this so he asked if I wanted to stay back and keep her company. I said yes and they went off. My mom wasn't really in agreement with it at first but she let me stay. During that time there weren't a lot of words shared and if we did say anything it was about Law & Order. Afterwards she thanked me and was able to come out and be with friends and family at our little Christmas Eve party. That's a moment that'll stick with me for a while and I'm glad I could be there for her when she wasn't feeling well.

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  60. I will treasure that day, too. Love you, Christian! :)

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  61. I’ve always liked having people in my life that understood something was wrong, without me having to speak. I like that people know to just sit there sometimes, because at times, there isn’t much you can say. I’ve acquired this skill over the years, too; I think it’s something you just get when you become a friend. You’re right, Mrs. Caraway, I am young. However, I have had one of those moments - the can’t breathe, can’t sleep, just want to cry all day moments. It may seem like an insignificant or petty reason to some, but it was when my dog, Guinness, died. He had been sick for a week with kidney failure, but that still didn’t prepare me for September 16th, when I got home from school. He couldn’t breathe well, so I took him to the vet. As coincidence will have it, my brother happened to be in the next room with his dog. He stayed in the room with me, making sure I was okay by just being there. We had to put Guinness down, and I wasn’t myself for weeks. And even though, four months later, I’m still sad, I remember each and every person who granted me that “art of presence”. Tiehen helped by just checking in on me every day, seeing how Guinness was. Alex listened to me talk about the many trips to the vet I had made, and he talked me through having to put Guinness down the night it happened. My sister called me that night and had a conversation with me about the most random things to get my mind off of it. My parents helped me by simply giving me space, even though they were sad, too. Breanna called me immediately (I didn’t answer, because I didn’t want to talk, but it was comforting that she cared so much). So, even though they weren’t constantly talking me through it, the fact that they took time out of their days to listen to me and be next to me, helped a lot.

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  62. Although I've never noticed it, this blog is right. I never really realized that the best comfort is silence but it makes sense. Whenever someone takes the time to be with you really makes it seem that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I honestly hate saying sorry, not because I don't like being nice. It feels like sorry had just become such a hollow word. It's the same as saying "good" when some one asks how your day was. Most of the time people don't mean it when they say it. The presence of silence is how someone who really cares shows that they care.

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  63. My father shows me this quite often. After suffering a tough loss in sports games, I try and shut out everything and keep to myself. My teammates and other family members try to tell me "good game" or "you'll get 'em next time." This makes me even more aggravated. It wasn't a good game if you lose by 20+ points, and my dad understands that. This is most likely because he knows what it feels like to be an athlete since he played multiple sports for his high school.
    But I feel like my silence in other situations has hurt the other person. Two years ago, my grandmother went through a surgery in her arm, and the doctors messed up, resulting in my grandmother to have a stroke. She was rushed to the hospital and I was not able to talk to her that day since she was unconscious. The time she was awake was Thanksgiving day (still two years ago) and it was my turn to go in and see her. When I went in, my mother had said I came into the room with my dad, and her eyes got really big and lit up with excitement. My father was able to say hello to his mother-in-law, but I couldn't do it, I was too sad by her condition to even muster out a "hi." I left the room immediately after I saw her face after a second of my parents telling me to say hello and me refusing. She didn't seem excited anymore and looked let down. I don't know how she did it, but she totally changed how she was feeling, even though she was unable to move or look around the room. I still feel guilty to this day about not saying words of encouragement to my grandmother before her passing on that Thanksgiving evening.

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  64. UNFORTUNATELY MY ORIGINAL DID NOT SAVE SO HERE IT IS AGAIN:
    The language of presence. I use this alot and I know I do. When anything serious happens I don't say anything, I intentionally stand there and listen to the news and then act like nothing has happened and deal with it after i have recovered. Due to my personality I don't do serious well.... I show a face that I am attentive and heard everything, sometimes I show when it makes me sad or upset, but I don't say much.
    My parents use this alot. When they want to exclaim a point about something I should, or should have done, they one will be in the presence and say nothing. As to confirm that they both agree, with what the other says.

    Saying nothing can be just as powerful as saying a monologue about how you feel. Seeing my friend sad, me just going up hugging them and stand around them with a silence of assurance can be just as strong as me saying "It's ok" maybe even stronger.

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  65. The language of presence, I feel can mean more than just a comfort in times of sorrow or bitterness, it could be at a time when your just looking for that little bit of fire in your belly to get you through the day. The best way that I can describe this is whenever I am at a sporting event that I am competing in I am constantly looking at the stands for my Dad. I know he won't necessarily give me any guidance in what I need to do but I know hes watching me, which causes me to elevate my game because I know he is watching. No words are said by him but his presence means all the difference in my motivation to do my best. That is what the language of presence means to me.

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  66. I dont think I would enjoy someone sitting with me and saying nothing while im grieving. People think I am easy to read but theres actually a lot that people dont know about me. I am very quiet with my feelings because I dont get very comfortable enough with most people to let them know how im feeling. I take death very hard and I like to be alone because I dont like to be seen when im weak. Also depending on who it was sitting with me would be awkward. If it was someone close okay maybe we can just sit and say nothing but I would probably like someone to talk to me and help me get my mind off things. I usually like to talk with others to get my mind off of things and then have my personal time when no one else is around. Im not really sure on how exactly I feel about the language of presence, it would depend on the situation and person.

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  67. To me, it seems as though language of presence is not exactly a language at all, but more of an idea. The idea that all a human being really ever needs is to have somebody by their side that is willing to listen to them and willing to be there for them. I have never really experienced any kind of large loss, losing only pets and some family that I barely knew. While those experiences were sad, I needed little consolation over them. I think that when I do feel this kind of grief, the presence of somebody familiar will be extremely helpful to the healing process. Language of presence seems like a great way to help somebody, and when I come to find somebody close to me in a lot of pain, I will definitely try to simple be by their side.

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  68. Sadly, I've experienced quite a few of those "bittersweet" moments. They taught me a lot, but if they hadn't have happened, that would be nice too. I don't want to share them, I'm sure you already know of some. Anyways, I remember during one of these, everyone would tell me, "If you need anything, just tell me." "I'll be here for you and I'll get you anything you want." and throughout all of that, I just wanted to tell them right back, "okay then, bring her back." Of course I didn't because it was rude and they were sincere, but my young sad self wanted to so bad. The other day I was talking about this with my hairdresser. Now, my grandma owns a salon, so my aunt does my hair. Of course families talk about things that go on, and I live with my other aunt (her sister) so she hears a lot about what I do. We were just discussing current things and she said she understood what was going on, that her and her sister were young once too. She added in at the end, "Of course we haven't gone through as much hurt as you have, but we still know what's happening with you on the 'being a teenager' end. But that just taught you how to fight, Hayley, and I hope you never stop swinging for victory." That was probably the nicest thing I've ever heard, because nobody acknowledges the pain I've had to endure. It's like things are just swept under a rug and ignored. I don't like silence. I'm terrified of it. I like acknowledgement. I like when something terrible happens and someone hugs me and just talks to me. I don't open up a lot, and even those close to me know that, and I know that. I like the people in my life that talk about things and force me to talk about them as well, because if everyone gave me a moment of silence all the time, I'd have many more problems.

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  69. The presence of language is when a person is there not only physically but, as well as spiritually without having the use of actual words. I may not have lost someone due to death but, I have felt the pain, and heartbreak from previous experiences. Knowing that I may not be my father's most favored child, or his most physically talented child, but knowing that he has told me that I am not good or the best at the sport I LOVE to play. Yes, he shows up to the games, but his body language which can be considered as a presence of language seems as if he is only there out of pity. As for spiritually, I do NOT need my father's opinion, nor do I need him to be at my games. "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." -Psalms 68:5. Not to get too 'religious' but, knowing that I do serve a Great God, and knowing that he is always with me, especially during the times I need someone the most; I have felt his presence whom brings comfort, and hope in any situation.

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  70. My presence of language is strange and very difficult for me to describe. You see, I consider myself observant and capable of gathering information objectively. I try to speak the truth, though sometimes it may be shocking or painful because of my slight inability to fully understand the feelings of others. However, I don’t consider myself "unemotional". Instead of trusting my emotions and speaking them freely, I incorporate my language of presence into ideas of who I am. As a result, sometimes I wonder if there is something in life that I'm missing because I just don't feel like other people feel. This does not necessarily prevent me from being involved in relationships with other people, when in fact I think I am capable of this, but I have been told that people seem to always notice an air of detachment from me. Whereas some use their language of presence to say words of reassurance or love or even nothing at all, I use mine to wonder 'why?' So much that I start to even question my existence and then I wonder if what I am doing is useful to others. If it’s not, then I’ll slowly begin to alter how approach a situation and this casually results in my saying nothing at all while I take extended time to assess what is needed from me.

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  71. I think this was my favorite blog you've ever written. It was beautiful, and thank you for sharing it with us. To me, the language of presence is really just everyone acting normally. Nothing is more comforting to me than having my grief acknowledged, and then being thrown back into the real world. I think that's what helps me not to linger on whatever's happened. If everyone else is in the swing of things, I might as well be, too, right? when something surreal happens, I like being surrounded by very real things: Homework, friends, school, work, etc... I can't deal with silence. It's sort of unnerving. You mentioned that when your father passed, your husband comforted you in silence. If someone did that with me, I think I would go crazy. It also helps if I know someone is depending on me. If someone else's life is going to be impacted by grief, then I need to move past it. That kind of reminds me of a discussion we had in your class once: have more than one child, so if something happens to one of them, you've still got something you need to live for.

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  72. I think presence is powerful whether there is noise involved or just silence. I'm not a big talker when it comes to difficult things but it's nice to have someone there to listen if it's needed. When my friend passed away in a car accident my grandpa went on a walk with me and we didn't talk much but it still made a big impact on me. There's a lot of comfort to be found in just knowing someone is there for you, even if you don't take them up on talking things through. It's nice when someone takes the time out of their day to just sit in silence.

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  73. I was really young when my dad's father died. I didn't really know my grandpa but from what I've heard he was a great man. He was my dad's role model, but my dad did not cry at his funeral. My aunts and uncles all looked so drained and sad but not my dad and I didn't get it he always looked up to my grandpa why was he not sad? Later on that week, I saw my dad sitting outside. I didn't want to disturb him until I noticed he was silently crying. I quietly walked up to him and I put my hand on his shoulder. He looked up to me and smiled we didn't say anything but I know my action meant a lot to him. The language of presence is truly a gift to someone who is in pain, they will appreciate it more than meaningless words, because actions speak louder than words.

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