The English language, while it is wild and crazy and unpredictable is also rich. And words have more than just definitions, they have connotations- feelings they invoke in addition to their primary definitions. When it comes to death, we as society have developed a slew of euphemisms- mostly because we want to avoid the unpleasantness of death which most of us view as the end. We give lip service to hoping there is something more, but we’d prefer not to think about it and just hope. So, when someone does go that way, we have created all sorts of ways to say he died without saying he died.
Last year when I was in counseling, one of my counselors told me that she felt it was a break through when the family could finally say their loved one “died”. No euphemisms, just use the word died. She gave examples of kids whose families had talked about the loved one as “sleeping” and the kids expected their fathers to wake up and return to them one day. She thought it was a good thing to accept the word dead and all it entails. I can’t say I agree with that. From the moment Shayna passed, I knew she wasn’t dead. We don’t die. We actually awaken. We don’t even “fall asleep”. From the afterlife communications we have and Near Death Experiences, we know that people who “die” are generally more vital, healthy and happy and alive than they ever were in the body.
I have to give credit to Mark Pitstick. During a Q&A session I attended where he was giving the answers, someone was talking about a loved one that passed and Mark emphasized the importance of using language that conveys what truly happens when we “die” and what people like me believe anyway. To say someone died, in the normal sense of the word, means she ceased to exist. She is gone. It is the end. You will rarely, if ever, hear me say Shayna died. When I do say it, it’s only from habit based on what other people say and I am always keenly aware of the fact she is not dead. Her body died. Shayna did not. Her body was cremated. Shayna was not. Shayna rose up from that body, maybe looked back and moved on. She is alive and well.I also try to avoid saying we “lost” Shayna although I will say this more often. We talk about parents who have “lost” children. We haven’t lost them. They’re not a set of car keys. We didn’t misplace them. And they are not lost. They are Home. If anything, we are lost. They are right here with us. We just cannot see them with these eyes.
BTW, I’m not asking anyone else to be “politically correct” and to try to avoid using common words in common ways. This is strictly for me and it’s something I think is important especially for parents whose children have passed on to make a practice to begin reshaping our minds so that we can not only survive this temporary separation but thrive through it.
Before Shayna passed I would have thought the language I use now is just euphemisms, just ways of people avoiding reality. Us parents of children who have transitioned use words like “transitioned”. In the program for Shayna’s celebration of life (I didn’t call it a funeral) I used the word “transcended”. Graduated is a word we will use. The date of the day they passed is their “angelversary”. If you haven’t gone through this, you might think these are just cute sayings. You might even think them harmful because they deny the reality of the finality of death- we’re not just accepting reality. Well, no and yes. They are not just cute sayings. They have real meaning. We see beyond the “reality” of the physical. While we know and accept we will never hug them again, never kiss them, never get to see them play another volleyball game, we do not accept the finality of death because the death of their body is the beginning of another life for them, a life that we will one day join them in. Shayna graduated early, went Home early, transcended, transitioned. She did not die. She did not cease to exist. She is not gone forever.