Why I Don't Say My Daughter 'Passed Away'

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 

Trigger warning: child loss

In my opinion, society as a whole is far too uncomfortable with using the word dead. As if it’s disrespectful to the non-living. Or perhaps, it’s too harsh on innocent ears. But it’s the truth. My daughter lived, and sadly, my daughter died. And guess what? I don’t love her any less for saying those words.

When I first said them, they felt unreal and unnatural. The cruel shock of it all made me feel like I was being forced to partake in some type of a sick joke. Saying, “She died,” for the first time, made my insides shake and my knees grow weary. And even to this very day, those words can still bring me the ugliest and loneliest of sobs.

But to say that she passed away, or to say that we lost her, makes me feel like I’m drowning month-old garbage in perfume.

Because to me, she didn’t pass away. No, that sounds far too kind for what happened to her. To me, death lingered into my home at 7 in the morning and stole my daughter while the both of us were sound asleep.

And we definitely did not lose her. I’m a more than capable mother, and while I know this term doesn’t mean to physically lose her, it still feels careless in my eyes.

Not only that, but when I try sugar-coating the end of her life story, it also feels like I’m postponing the dreadful awareness (to myself) that she truly is never coming back.

And maybe for a brief time that could’ve been okay for some small part of me. But from the get-go, another huge part of me needed to feel all of the devastation brought on by her death.

So as for me, I will say that she died.

Because I’ve lived a better portion of my grief feeling like she’s at daycare, and I’m due to pick her up at any moment. But I cannot live like that anymore.

If it sounds harsh, it’s because the words signify a more than solemn finality. But in order for me to grieve effectively, I need the finality. And Lord knows, I need the closure that I hate.

It took a long time for the irrational bargaining within myself to silence itself. But now that it has, I won’t let it ever return. Because ultimately, it does me no good, and it drives me mad. And I don’t plan on allowing it to return, because it does me no good.

To this day, I sometimes catch myself telling other people that she passed away, instead of telling them that she died. But now I realize why I do this. It’s because I don’t want others to feel a fraction of my discomfort. Because it really is so uncomfortable and horrible at times.

But trying to make others feel good about my personal loss is mentally, physically, and emotionally debilitating. I don’t even feel good about it myself. So why am I responsible for holding back everyone else’s sorrow toward my devastation, when I can barely carry the burden on my own?

Before my daughter died, I was never an outcast. But now I am. Because even though this world oozes with grief, we still don’t know how to handle it.

And to tell you the truth, it’s draining me in every way possible.

Death happens. It’s cruel and it’s horrible whenever it happens. But it’s tragically inevitable. Can’t we just leave it at that?

Let me express my daughter’s death in whatever way I see fitting for the moment. And do so without looking at me like I’ve cursed the very grave she resides in. My love for her is not measured by the words I choose to use, and my love for her is not yours to measure. My love for her is mine and mine alone.

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