Words Left Unsaid

Sudden death is, by its very nature, unexpected. We all think we’ll have the next moment, hour, day, month, year to express feelings and speak the love we hold for those dear to us.

January 3, 2024, ended my chance to say, to my husband, words left unsaid. I was rushing that day, in a hurry to complete an errand before a 2:00 pm Zoom meeting.

When I came downstairs, Jim was in the den. We talked. Made plans for a late lunch. Said, “I love you.” He said, “Hurry there, and hurry back.”

As Jim continued to talk from the other room, I slipped out the back door, muttering, “I’ll ask him what he said when I get back.”

An hour later, I found him, peaceful in death, at the top of the back stairs. I will never know his last words to me.

Words Better Left Unsaid

Words are powerful. Words tear down or build up.

I still remember hurtful words said to me in child- and teen-hood, words that damaged my self-esteem and self-perception.

When I was still a child, I traveled to another state with my grandmother, mother, and her sisters for a family reunion. The yard around the house swarmed with people I didn’t know. As my grandmother introduced me to her family, a semi-toothless woman in a drab dress stared at me and said, “Ain’t no one been pushing you back from the table.”

It took a few minutes for her comment to register, but then I realized she was criticizing my size. I was embarrassed. It felt as if every eye shifted to me. How do you respond to a comment like that? As an eleven-year-old, you don’t. You disappear.

As soon as possible, I went to our car and sat in the back seat with the door open. My grandmother found me. Held me close and instructed me not to pay attention to what the woman said. But the damage was done.

Several years later, a woman in our church, known for her no-filter comments, pushed the door to the ladies’ room open hard just as I was about to open it from the inside. She slammed me against the wall, then looked behind the door. Instead of an apology, she said, “No wonder I couldn’t open the door all the way with someone as big as you behind it!” Again, my self-esteem took a major hit.

Some words, and thoughts, are better left unexpressed. Are you given to angry outbursts? Does criticism fall out of your mouth as easily as water from a faucet? Do you speak before considering the impact of your words on others?

Words to Say Now


One of the definitions of the word “affirm” is to validate; to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness of. We all need affirmation. Don’t save affirming words for a later time. Speak affirmations now.


Who among us doesn’t need encouragement? It doesn’t take much to speak words of encouragement to those around you. Your encouraging words may be the only positive offering in someone’s day, so give the gift of encouragement.


A few days before Jim’s death, we had a brief conversation, but one that healed a deep wound with a thick scab. I’m so thankful for those words, words that cemented love and erased hurt.

Is there someone in your life you need to forgive, or to whom you need to apologize? Don’t wait. Unforgiveness is like a festering sore, one that hurts you more that it hurts your offender. Let today be the day you make things right.


At some point in our marriage, Jim and I began saying, “I love you” every time we parted. Perhaps we instigated this habit after one of his many brushes with death. Or maybe we started saying “I love you” with each parting after we learned to avoid allowing anger to overshadow love.

Love isn’t always easy. Love requires work, perseverance, and forgiveness. Learn to say loving words now. Don’t wait.


The antithesis of speaking is listening. Listening well is as important, if not more important, than talking. I’ll never know Jim’s last words to me because I was in too much of a hurry to take the time to listen. Listen first; then speak.

Slow your frantic pace long enough to be still before God and listen. Learn to recognize His voice and heed what He says.

What words do you need to say today to heal wounds, affirm, encourage, bring forgiveness, enhance love, and promote forward motion?

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose” (Proverbs 18:21 MSG).


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

To receive Candy’s blog, Forward Motion, via email, go to https://candyarrington.com/blog/ and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.




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  1. Candy,

    This is so powerful!

    One of the greatest lessons I learned as a young pastor’s wife was from Ms. Bertha Smith on forgiveness.

    I have had to utilize that lesson more times than I care to remember and am presently dealing with a personal family member in a difficult situation I am having to pray hard to have that same spirit of forgiveness.

    Also, it grieves me that an unexpected death could leave needed words and healing buried.

    Thank you for being so transparent in your recent unexpected journey. I have read all of your blogs and they are truly inspiring!

    Love and prayers!

    1. Rhonda, thank you. I learned a long time ago that transparent writing resonates with readers. Transparency risks criticism, but connecting with readers is worth it.

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