Why do we avoid saying the word “died”?


I challenge you to say these words ALOUD.

What happens when you say these words?

Do you whisper with intimidation, shout loudly, or look around to see if anybody hears you? Does it seem uncomfortable?

What sensations do you feel in your body when you say these words?

Does it feel awkward or wrong like you are summoning an evil deity?     Or do the words roll off your tongue naturally with a sense of liberation?

What thoughts are brought to mind?

A past memory about a deceased loved one?

An inclination to ponder your own death?

Whatever the case may be, this is OK. THESE WORDS ARE SAFE.

Using these words won’t hasten death, so why do we avoid using them?

Why are these words taboo in the West?

Perhaps, these words reveal the unambiguous truth of the inevitable…


Death is a natural part of life. It is a cycle. It is a highly evolved design that allows us an opportunity of life. Life and death require each other.

Take comfort in knowing our bodies are built to die and our bodies know how to die, just as they know how to be birthed.

Still, there is so much fear and inaccuracy expressed in the vocabulary used when referring to death.

How we refer to death in the west

black woman Why do we avoid saying the word "died"?

Why do we “dance around death”? Instead of using the words “Death, Die, Died”, we use euphemisms such as “we lost her”, “he passed on”, “she slipped away”, “resting in peace”, “he lost the battle”, “she didn’t make it”, “ kicked the bucket”, “he bit the dust”. You get the point.

We say “my phone died”, my car “died”, even the plant and goldfish “died”, ….but grandma, she “grew wings”, “slipped away”, “went home”. Grandma does all these things but she never dies.

To put it in context, imagine explaining this to someone new to the English language? Imagine how misleading this can be to a child inquiring about death?

Why do we use euphemisms?


Being unclear with our own beliefs and ideas about death.


To avoid our own discomfort about death.


Denial to protect ourselves.


Assumed to be a gentler option when verbally broaching the topic with others.


Euphemisms may reflect a genuine belief, but many people feel differently regarding ideas and concepts of an afterlife.

Though a great mystery, Death is a life changing event that  should be properly acknowledged in order to have a healthy relationship with it. There is no sugar coating, there is no hiding. Death is real, Death is raw. This is simply part of the human experience.

Discomfort with the word “Died” perpetuates discomfort with death.

Discomfort with death disrupts how we live.

Dying well starts with living well.

“Fear Less, Live More”, a reminder in Stephan Hunt’s playful book for adults titled “We’re All Going to Die”.Check it out here…https://www.wereallgoingto.com/shop/book

So, what can we do?

“Death, Die, Died” are not inappropriate words, yet there is an element of SHAME attached to these words, posing underlying implications of guilt, regret or embarrassment. There is NO shame in using these words. These are not “bad” words, these are HONEST words. Yes they are associated with grief, fear and loss, but by using these words comfortably, we provide an opportunity for someone else to be comfortable.

Practice expressing matters concerning death in an honest, open, clear and direct way.

Try using the word “Died” to acknowledge and honor the truth of the matter and the seriousness of loss.

Open up the lines of true communication and allow a space for real talk, real grieving, and real human connection. This will encourage others to do the same.

Use the word “Died” thoughtfully, intentionally and caringly.

This in turn will emanate the other” four letter word”…L.O.V.E!

Death is not anti life, it is an innate part of life.

For more information or inquires about end of life matters, please visit Dying Your Way.

Picture of Kerry Mekeel

Kerry Mekeel

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