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Euphemisms: Helpful or Hurtful?

Many American are afraid of death, violent or otherwise and will use euphemisms as buffers when discussing death, dying or the dead.


What words have you used to obscure the dying process?  And is it emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy to use these euphemisms when discussing death, dying or the dead?  Or should we be as blunt and brutally honest to the dying, their family and friends when discussing death, the dying and or the dead?

5 Responses to Euphemisms: Helpful or Hurtful?

  • Gisele Carrillo says:

    I think that we have to be emotionally sensitive when dealing with this situation. This is because the family is at a hopeless state of not knowing what to do. To the family, I would explain that this is a natural process and that when dying, God is calling the person to come and that would be the end of the life here on earth. Only God can truly comfort the heart of the people and give them peace. I believe that the truth should be told about death, dying or the dead but not to the point of being blunt or brutally inconsiderate of the grief of the person.

    • Leo Bertsch says:

      Communication is dependent upon the age, relationship and situation you have with the individual of the dying or dead person. As a child the phrase, “died and gone to heaven” was a concept I could imagine without being traumatized. Older individuals such as teenagers are experiencing hormonal changes which heighten emotional reactions. News of the death of a relative or aquaintance should be explained using plain, “matter of fact” language without embellishment. The older child / teen needs to have more information regarding the cause of death, and this information should be given freely without borders. To use blunt or direct verbiage to inform someone of their own or another’s death could be viewed as rude and intolerable. But again it depends on the recieptiant. I once told a client that their father , “had gone during the night”, he retorted, “Do you mean he’s dead? Just say he’s dead.” Honest and kind and appropriate vocabulary is always acceptable in any situation.

      • Do you see, Leo. People just want you to be in honest in your conversation. “Just say he’s dead” and not that he expired, etc., just be opened. This is good and something that we need to employ on the journey called, LIFE! Thanks for your comment.

  • F Bronson says:

    Euphemisms are used in place of direct talk. The learner understands the rationale for using them, but at the same time he finds them harmful and unfair. For this learner it comes down to being honest and living in and accepting reality. Using euphemisms takes the sting away temporarily, but it doesn’t stop you from having to deal with the real situation when it arises. This learner believes that we stunt emotional growth when we are not straight forward, open, and honest about things, especially when discussing death. It’s very possible that the more open and honest you are the better off people may be.

  • You are so right. Euphemisms take the sting away temporarily and temporarily only! This is why we must be open and honest when speaking to others about death, dying and the dead. We owe it to them and ourselves. Thanks for your comment!

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