Usually, when someone dies, the rest of us get uncomfortable talking about that dead person in front of their family or loved ones. We don’t want to spark off some emotions in them, hence we carefully try to avoid mentioning them or anything that’s related to them. However, should we necessarily avoid talking about them? Is that the best way to move on?

When we so carefully avoid talking about them, I have seen that their loved ones usually feel, “how can they just forget all about my father/mother/grandfather/husband/“ etc. They may feel that people have conveniently forgotten all about the deceased and may feel bad about it. Referencing them in ways that are negative or regretful is also not healthy. Saying things like,

  • “If you had done this, maybe he would’ve lived” – is an absolute No-No. Once the person dies, don’t pick up any topic that makes the family feel they should’ve done something to keep them alive. Death and life are not in our hands. If my time is over, no one and nothing can give me extra life. If my time is there, no one and nothing can kill me too.
  • Avoid referencing in ways of regret – such as – ‘he should’ve seen this before he left.’ Or, he died too young, he should’ve lived longer. You may feel that, but when you tell it to the family, they may feel bad about it further.
  • Don’t let curiosity get the better of you and ask them questions around the death – how did they die? How exactly did it happen – questions like these will make them relive the not-okay moments many times strengthening the painful moments further.
  • Sometimes we go one step further by stopping the family of the deceased from talking or recounting their old memories with them too! That goes a tad too much! They may feel they don’t have the freedom to talk about the person they love so much. One may think, “I just don’t want them to think of the past and feel bad”. But you know what, we can’t abruptly stop talking about someone who passed away. It will look weird to avoid someone who we loved and lived with for so long. It’s a life – not a paper or an issue that can be pushed under the carpet and forgotten. It’s okay to talk about them, and feel that sense of missing them – and have a tear or two briefly. It’s a process of recalling, strengthening, and letting go. The more you try to avoid this, the longer it takes to heal. Like I always say, “It’s okay to be not okay.”

Find healthy ways of referencing and representing them because we can draw strength from it. Healthy ways of referencing are talking about the good work they have done, how the deceased may have inspired you some time, their strengths, their good work, and how they may be peaceful somewhere up above, watching over us. When we say things like this, we are remembering them in healthy ways. The concerned family too might just appreciate the fact that you still care to remember the goodness of the person and celebrate their life even after they are gone. That is gratitude. Trying to spend a life coping with their death may be painful. But trying to spend a life carrying forward their legacy might be helpful.

Just because you don’t talk about them, the other person won’t forget them. They’ll still think of them. Hence, fondly remember them rather than desperately try to avoid/forget them. Beyond that one moment of death, there is an entire life of theirs to be cherished.

For more tips on what to say and what not to say in these circumstances – please refer to an earlier blog – https://narmadarao.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/when-you-dont-know-what-to-say-2/

2 Replies to “How to refer to the dead in ways that are healthy”

  1. Wonderful…must know tips

  2. gsriramamurty 2 years ago

    Silence is the best way as you said in your earlier mail. God bless you.

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