Grief Part One: How We Speak About Death

I started this blog to have an outlet when I can’t stop thinking about something. Lately, I can’t stop ruminating on death, so consider this part one of my thoughts as they come to me.

My mother-in-law died last week of a long and painful illness.

When I had to tell people that she died, I noticed something: I had a very hard time saying “died”. I wanted to say passed on, went to heaven, fell asleep, or a myriad of other euphemisms. There was a visceral reaction to saying it so bluntly, and in the end I couldn’t bring myself to say it publicly. I would rather have used the same words that we do when someone is fired than be completely forthright.

Why? What is it about death, even speaking about death, that I could hardly even broach the subject?

Part of it is a deep uncomfortability about the whole death thing in the first place. I’ve only had a few people die in my life, and none so close to me as my mother-in-law. I do not know how to deal with this situation. And because of that, I also don’t know how to talk about it.

That part makes sense. But what I realized as well is that actually using the word “died”, even in my own head, made it more real. If I say she went to be with the Lord, it feels like there is a chance for her to return in this life. If I say she died, there is no recovery from that. She’s not coming back. This is only just now starting to sink in. I will never see her again because she died.

I think there is another part to it, too. I wanted to spare other people as much pain as possible. Rather than be blunt, I wanted to break the news gently to all those who have been praying for her and giving us their support. It’s like I wanted to mitigate as much pain as I could by using softer words.

Language is something we use to reveal or hide our emotions. The stronger the emotion, the more there is to hide. Grief is hard to go through, so it follows that speaking about grief is equally hard. I’m only just starting to figure this out. Is it better to be completely forthright, or to cushion my words when talking about her death? I don’t know yet. It probably depends on the situation and the person. For now, I’m waffling between the two and that’s ok. There’s no one way to grieve and therefore no one way to talk about grief. I think the important thing is that I keep talking.

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One thought on “Grief Part One: How We Speak About Death

  1. I struggle with the words we use to hide death. I flinch when people use the word “passed” because sometimes, in grief, I just want to scream, “They’re dead! Just say it already!” I want to acknowledge the enormity of it all, and at the same time, I want to flee from it. It’s deeply confusing at times.

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