When you don’t have the words

When you don’t have the words

I haven’t written in this online space in maybe half a year, a trend that seems to never end after years of promising myself that I’d write more often. I think I’m still figuring out the love-hate relationship I have with blogging: The love for a creative outlet to express myself and the dislike I feel towards how commercialised the sector is becoming. Don’t people write just for the joys of writing and expression anymore? I’ve considered making this a private blog but the reminders of how She Roams the World was inspired by the community of people I’ve met around the world, how this blog has connected people across the globe and even just the emails I’ve received from readers (I’m surprised I still have any given how inactive I am!) makes it difficult to disappear off the face of the internet world.

But that’s not the purpose of this post. To get back from that introductory tangent:

With the abundance of time and isolation that comes with the crisis that is COVID-19, I’ve had quite a bit of time to think and one of the things I found myself mulling over constantly is…What do you say when you don’t have the words?

Not knowing what to say is different from not having anything to say obviously. I imagine that many of us are feeling overwhelmed by all kinds of emotions and thoughts that we’re not familiar with and are unable to find words that can encapsulate everything in your mind and heart. Beyond self-expression, it’s even more difficult to find the right words to comfort someone who has lost a loved one, someone who is ill or even someone who is struggling with sky-high anxiety or the depths of depression at this time. Perhaps for some of us, it’s simply easier not to say anything at all.

I’ve never been someone who is verbally expressive so I might be biased, but in reflecting, I’ve realised that sometimes the right words aren’t really words at all. Or at least, not spoken words. I’ve put together a list of words that I’ve personally found useful and I hope it helps you find the right words too.

Disclaimer: Like durian, people either love or hate acrostics. We are probably getting a little too old for acrostics, I remember really squeezing acrostic poetry dry as a kid, but I think it’s apt in a time when I too am struggling to find the words to say.

Here are some words we can share with those around us in this time of need:

Write notes of gratefulness and encouragement

We don’t write enough these days and now is a great time to relearn how to create legible handwriting after years of typing. I’ve always been a big fan of handwritten notes and letters because it shows that someone is willing to set aside time and effort for you.

Here are some ideas:

  • Post-its are a great way to express appreciation in the most mundane places. Paste little thank you notes for strangers to read on mirrors, walls, doors, libraries, cabs, hospital taxi stands… anywhere and everywhere (Don’t go crazy. We still need to obey public rules about graffiti/litter, of course)
  • Snail mail is your buddy. Mail out a letter to your friend or family, just like the good ol’ days. Not just any letter. Sit down and write a heartfelt letter about why you’re grateful for them. (Before you move on to the next point, seriously think about it… when was the last time you wrote someone you cared about a letter to tell them precisely that they matter to you?)
  • Write little thank you notes to those who are working extra hard or at risk of losing their jobs because of the virus. Healthcare workers, government leaders, religious leaders, delivery riders, supermarket workers and many many more.
  • Write notes to those who are ill or who have lost loved ones. Tell them how important they are, validate their grief, be there virtually if they need company, offer your help in practical ways from afar (see points below).

Offer to help with housework

If you don’t already help with housework, this is a big one! While the economy slows, households get busier with everyone working from home. As much as having family around is lovely, I think many mothers and wives are feeling swamped with having everyone home and I can only imagine how exhausted they must be. Please don’t take them for granted. If you’re working from home, please offer to help in any way. It can be as simple as cooking dinner for one night, mopping/sweeping the floor, doing the laundry/dishes or taking out the trash.

Give your mum or wife an extra hug today, she deserves it! (To avoid generalizing based on family norms in asian societies, I want to add that I do think some men and adult kids living at home do help out with housework, but this pointer is for those who don’t!)

Remember the forgotten

A lot easier said than done, but all the more important in this time. Are there people around you that you would normally overlook? If anything, they need your support more than ever now. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just needs to go beyond intentions into action.

  • Consider your neighbourhood. Are there any elderly folks living alone, low-income families, disabled individuals that you could help with grocery shopping or to clean their houses?
  • Consider your workplace/school/church. Is there anyone going through a particularly stressful time due to family tensions, stress or mental illnesses? How can you help them?
  • Consider the homeless. Can you bless them with little bottle of hand sanitiser or masks, especially since they don’t have the privilege of staying within the confines of a home? (Yes, being stuck at home is a privilege…you have a roof over your head!)

Deliver little surprises to those around you

Beyond those who need help, you can always channel your time and efforts into making anyone’s day better! Now’s a good time to support delivery riders and small businesses in your area.

  • Working from home? Why not surprise a family member or friend with lunch delivered to their doorstep?
  • Know someone who is going through a stressful time and pulling late nights? Deliver little snacks/drinks to them in the evening.
  • It doesn’t always have to be food (although it’s hard to go wrong with food), delivering flowers, groceries/necessities or creative little gifts are possibilities too.
  • Make an effort to support smaller businesses who need your support more than ever since they are less likely to have a stockpile of finances to survive months of poor business.

Social media, used wisely, can be a source of joy and community

Being confined to your home doesn’t mean your social life has to come to an end. We live in a world of technology (Thank you various-video-call providers) and now is the time to embrace that.

  • Have a friend that you haven’t caught up with in a long time? Why not set some time for a meal over video call? You can still enjoy dinner conversations without having to leave the house. Feel like eating Japanese food but your friend hates sushi/ramen/japanese food? Embrace this opportunity to eat what you want while catching up with a friend.
  • Feel discouraged by all the negative news? Follow some positive social media accounts to be reminded of the good in this world. I’d recommend @goodnews_movement for a start.
  • Be the source of joy and happiness for someone else via social media. People are probably using social media more than ever to stay connected with their friends. Post something funny, something that you’re thankful for, something not related to the virus. We all need a breath of fresh air!

And to end off, here’s a song to encourage you today:


Thank you as always to my token readers and I hope you’re keeping well in this time. We will get through this!




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