Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about dying won’t make you die

The way we talk about dying, matters

Recently for a Dying Matters awareness week we held an event in the local community to talk about why the way we talk about dying, matters. Most of us try to avoid going near the subject, but hospices will encourage their patients and their families to discuss what will happen and encourage talk about funeral arrangements. It can give the person who is terminally ill some power back, so they can shape their own send off whilst taking some pressure off family & friends to figure out what they wanted after they have died.

Modernise terms used in the funeral profession

At this event, I specifically wanted to talk about the need to modernise the terms the funeral profession have historically used:

Deceased

– much better to use the person’s name than refer to them as ‘the deceased’. This is dehumanising.

Loved one

– often used as a softer term but makes the assumption that the person was loved. Relationships are complicated, as above refer to the person by name.

Viewing

– this is when you visit the person who has died at the funeral directors. You aren’t looking at a flat or a car. You are spending time with or visiting ‘named’ person.

Removal

– a funeral director is not a removal company helping you move furniture. We are collecting someone to bring them into our care.

Hygienic treatment

– do you know what this refers to? A wash and shampoo? No, it’s a term used instead of embalming. Embalming is a process of replacing someone’s bodily fluids with chemicals to delay the natural changes which occur after death.

Committing suicide

– This damaging term dates from the past where taking your life was a criminal offence. Instead maybe say ‘died by suicide’ or ‘took their own life’.

Disposal

– Unfortunately this is a term still used in law to describe what happens to someone’s body after they have died. Instead, it’s better to describe the options – cremation or burial.

Sue Jenkins, the local bereavement counsellor who leads our free monthly bereavement group talked about the often misleading terms we use for death.

Lost

– where have they gone? Are they coming back?

Passed

– passed what? An exam, medical or driving test?

Using the term ‘gone to sleep’ to tell a child someone has died can be confusing and misleading.

It was a really interesting session, and we plan to repeat it again in the future.

We know death isn’t a popular topic of conversation but it’s important to be honest, direct and transparent to avoid confusion or misunderstanding.

What are your thoughts?