Many moons ago, we wrote an article about the limited language of grief. We lamented the reality that, in grief, we often have thoughts, feelings, and experiences that seem to defy language. We feel isolated and alienated, and as though no one else understands what we are going through. Just when we find the strength to try to express our experience to our friend or our boss or our therapist, we start scanning our brains for the words, and instead, we find a big black hole.
We find ourselves thinking, “There must be a word for this! There must be a GRIEF word for this!”. And when we search long and hard and decide that there isn’t, sometimes we end up feeling even more alone. We start thinking, “With 360 million native English speakers, and 1.5 billion total English speakers, if no one has come up with a word for what I am going through, maybe I really am alone!”. Right?
Though the grief words might not always exist, we are very, very confident this is not because you are alone in your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Millions of grievers come here every year and, though your grief experiences are all unique, we see that there are definite commonalities. However, because our language doesn’t have appropriate words to describe our experiences, they are often difficult to see.
The recourse seems pretty obvious if you ask us. When language fails, make up new words! Seeing as ‘binge-able,’ ‘adorbs”, ‘hangry,’ and ‘TL;DR’ all made it into the dictionary last year, there’s absolutely no reason some new grief words can’t be next.
You know we are big fans of 64 Things lists around here, so we put out a request for made-up grief words (or grief words from other languages that don’t translate into English)… and, as always, the fantastic WYG community didn’t disappoint. Honestly, we didn’t think it would be possible to come up with a 64 grief-words-that-should-exist list. Turns out we were wrong! Within a day, we had sixty-four words and counting.
So here they are, in no particular order. We hope you find a new word or two to help you express a grief experience, and we hope you feel a little less alone. We also hope you add your own in the comments. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up with 64 more grief words!
One thing many grievers can agree on: There should be a better word than ‘anniversary’ for the day a loved one died. Some submissions for consideration:
7. D-Day or Deathday (like B-Day/Birthday)
8. Passing Day
9. Funeversary = The anniversary of the funeral
Grief brings with it a whole host of moments that are happy (or should feel happy) but at the same time are filled with sadness, often because the person we love isn’t there. The English word ‘bittersweet’ exists, but it often doesn’t do the trick. Luckily we have some other contenders:
12. Griefshower = Grief tears that come during an otherwise happy moment
13. Smilecrying = When you’re smiling because of happy memories while simultaneously crying because you miss them)
Though people often talk about the many friends who said or did the wrong thing, there are friends who do simply seem ‘get’ it. Maybe they are also grieving. Maybe they just get it and get you. Regardless, they seem to deserve their own name. Some suggestions:
17. Wid-Sisters or Wid-Brothers = Fellow widows
So many of us have those moments, the ones when everything is going along just fine and suddenly your grief rolls in like a hurricane. Sometimes it is a song, a thought, a reminder. Sometimes you can’t figure out what brought it on, but your grief has suddenly knocked you off your feet.
18. Grief Wave
19. Grief Attack
21. Soulcrime (Every time I have to do something painful or unpleasant to deal with my mother’s estate or affairs or anytime I have to do anything surrounding her death that feels like it betrays what she would have wanted).
24. Grief Ripple
25. Emotional Time Bomb
26. Attack of the Grief Monster
27. The SADS
28. High Tide (They say grief comes in waves; I use the term “high tide” when it’s hitting me harder than usual).
29. Griefmobile = Grief crying in the car, often a frequent and recurrent event
30. Grief-Hangover = For those days after another hardest day
31. Dementor (from Harry Potter; what I think of when I’m feeling relatively fine and then suddenly grief overwhelms me for no clear reason)
32. Got the ‘Morbs’ = A phrase from the 1880s meaning temporary melancholy
In the early days of grief, it can feel as though your brain has turned to mush. You can’t concentrate, you can’t problem-solve, you can’t remember, you can’t think.
36. Grief Bubble
38. Rememberate = Used when celebrating my husband’s birthday
39. Grief Nuggets (Because sometimes the comfort of chicken nuggets is healing!)
40. Heartwork = Art created and inspired by grief
41. Photogrief = Photography inspired by grief
42. Grief Strong = Going through this and finding out we are stronger than we realize
43. Grief-Work = Choosing to step into the hard to allow healing to happen
44. Damnitsbeautiful = When something strikes me as awe-inspiring, amazing, and/or God-like when I’m in the midst of a full-on grief sad moment
Sometimes you just need some general grief-related descriptors:
45. Griefsville = Our land of grief
46. Grief Case (Some days it is bigger than others, but I am always carrying it)
47. Ooof = Midwestern word for terrible, awful, shitty, exhausting, sad, and mad all at the same time
49. Smad = Sad and mad at the same time
51. Griefsgiving = When a loved one died on Thanksgiving
52. Kummerspeck = A German word that literally translates as “grief bacon”; the weight you gain from comfort eating while grieving
53. Ka-Blah-Blah = When you feel something big but can’t explain it. There are just no words. It’s just kablahblah.
54. Griefing It = Handling something in only a way that someone dealing with grief could or would
55. Milestone-Envy = Envy you feel for another person who is having a moment you won’t have because your loved one died
56. [insert-relationship-here]-Envy = Envy of anyone who still has the person you lost (e.g., mom-envy, dad-envy, husband-envy, wife-envy, brother-envy, sister-envy, daughter-envy, son-envy)
57. G-Filter = The filter other people put on when they don’t want to think about or hear about the reality of your loss, so they avoid it, minimize it, or sugar coat it
58. Cloud-Time = Speaking as if your loved one who died was in the room with you
59. Tilty-Heads = People who can’t help but tilt their heads, speak softly, and extended their vowels when they see you and ask how you’re doing
Sometimes you want words to describe the relationship you have with your loved one after a loss:
60. Forever Wife/Forever Husband (instead of widow)
61. Forever Mom/Forever Dad
62. AngelMom or AngelDad
63. Vilomah = Sanskrit meaning ‘against the natural order’; word for a parent whose child has died
64. Shakulim = Hebrew for parents who have lost a child
65. Zeitlanger = Pennsylvania Dutch word for a parent who has lost a child
Some experiences people have requested words for:
feeling half dead and half alive
friends who disappear while you’re grieving
Keep the list going: Leave a comment with your words or suggestions! Or just tell us what you think.