64 Grief-Words That Should Exist

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?

Wrong. 

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). 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 things 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:

1. Deathiversary

2. Crapiversary

3. Catastroversary

4. Angelversary

5. Suckversary

6. Sadiversary

7. D-day or Deathday (Like B-day, Birthday)

8. Passing day 

9.  Funeversary (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:

10. Happysad

11. Griefjoy

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:

14. Grief-friend

15. Grief-tribe

16. Grief-hero

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

20. Griefquake

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). 

22. Griefburst

23 Griefwobble

24. Grief ripple

25. Emotional time bomb (Facebook time hops being a prime example)

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.  

33. Grief-brain

34. Widow-brain

35. Grief-fog

36. Grief bubble

37. Grief-haze 


As hard as it is to believe, grief isn’t all bad. Sometimes you find comfort, you honor and remember your loved ones, you grow, you learn, you create, you find gratitude. 

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)

48. Womp-womp

49. Smad (sad and mad at the same time)

50. F*ckage

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. Griefingit (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 – ex. 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 or forever husband (instead of widow)

61. Forever mom or forever dad

62. AngelMom or AngelDad. 

63. Vilomah (from the 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

A person whose sibling died

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!

 
 
July 2, 2019

70 responses on "64 Grief-Words That Should Exist"

  1. Gidow= when my boyfriend passed I couldn’t think of a word to describe me, we were not married, I was not his wife to be a widow…am his GIDOW, this is the first time I share this thought, I wonder if it will ever make it to the dictionary.
    I wish there was a word for many other thoughts I am experiencing like if I ever meet someone who is interested in me (which I am in no rush or desire honestly) I think about silly things like what would I call him? BF? it just feels wrong! I wish there was a word for someone coming into your life afterwards.
    Griefstones= grief milestones, like wearing eyeliner after 9 months or shaving after (several moths) you know, the little things we accomplish on a daily basis that seemed impossible at first.
    There are so many instances to describe…

  2. Rollercrasher: that crazy ride…up & down, ‘round and ‘round… you never know what’s around the next corner. Just when you think you’ve gotten through the worst… whoosh! the “ride” throws you something new.

    Tsun-na-ngrab-me: when all of sudden there is a terrible stillness and then a womb as everything rushes back at you bigger and scarier than just moments before. No warning, can happen out of the blue or there’s a rumbling then the quiet then it all hits and tosses you around.

  3. I too am a recent widow. Rather than finding this list offensive I found myself nodding in agreement to so many of the words. I have been at a loss for words that fit the situation since my husband was killed in a car accident February 23 2019. Does anyone have a word for our first wedding anniversary without him? It is this coming week. Words are power.

  4. “Grief-Funk” is the compound word I used to describe my experience this morning when the combination of missing Mom with my milestone birthday coming up next month and the loss of a significant friendship (one of my out-of-state besties, a big support during my grief process, but a complicated array of misunderstandings over the last couple months basically killed our friendship this past week). It lasted several hours but I took a nap and had a nice dream about my mom…first time in a while.

  5. a PS to my words of July 9, because in reading them today, they seem scolding and harsh and bossy-cold, and that was not in my heart or mind at all.
    In this life now, I have to keep everything very simple and gentle.
    I cannot instantly remember a lot — the mailman’s name, the day of the week, what I ate. Still.
    I write a lot down and that’s been a help. My brain can rest from remembering all the day-to-day.
    So, for me, remembering a new and created word or phrase is not what I can do.
    I’m going through trauma. Still. And I feel disconnected. Powerfully a times. Still.
    We were married for 1729 weeks. He’s been where he is now for 123 weeks.
    Hope I didn’t traumatize anyone with my original words.
    Cherishing you all.

  6. For friends who disappear – Frienemy. The word I often use in Our support groups is Naturalized life. No longer normal and will never be normal again but it will become naturalized in time.

  7. For 1/2 dead and 1/2 alive– this is trauma.
    traumatized.
    disconnected.
    2 words, already existing,
    As for me, I stay safe with my best friend and beloved husband, now in spirit, yet ever near. Please read the Blog post on Continuing Bonds, and you may understand, and find comfort there.

  8. Thanks for all the words!!!!

  9. GriefStreets- The roads I took to take my wife to horrible cancer institute for her radiation and 1 chemo treatment! How I hate even driving on any of the roads that unfortunately I must at times in day to day. I hit the road and in sight I can see all the way to the horrible ending over and over again.
    This “wonderful” cancer institute had all their patients upon finishing their radiation treatments ring their “Victory Bell” and it was the most horrible experience for me. My wife- This poor soul was ringing a “Victory Bell” when I knew she only had weeks left to live! But she tld me she was reminded to ring the bell as we left. We have the picture from it- It was horrible as others heard it and stood and clapped. Horrible. I am sorry it was.
    Victory? My ass!
    The % that ring that bell and survive is probably near ZERO- So what victory must we think about when their very Dr says “shes got weeks to go”?

    • Sorry for your loss. I vote for your GriefStreets.
      Along with GriefStores/GriefPlaces? Every store or place frequented with the person that you reminds you or you can no longer enter without crying.

  10. Thank you so much for this wonderful, soul-freeing vocabulary! I need this!
    I’m in a greifaversay today – one year exactly since my wife and I became a hospice family, and she died in my arms in November. I need a word for a person, who can be someone I know or don’t really know, when hearing that I’m in a griefbomb, does not look away. Instead, silently holds my gaze and sits with me in my grief. What a loving gift that is! This happened to me today.

  11. Thank you so much for these and for all the comments. Reading these descriptions assures me I am not alone in my journey. Here are some suggestions:
    Friends who disappear when one is in grief:: Flosters

    Friends/acquaintances who step up in profound ways when one is in grief: Frolids

    Feeing half alive and half dead in grief: Grazy

  12. I’m just emerging into the land of the living after having lost five close family members in four years including my kid brother on my birthday. It’s been a relentless onslaught of painful difficult feelings. Grief, as followers of this awesome blog know, doesn’t end…it evolves and changes and finds a place as part of a new you. Some of the new words I use to describe the sudden disruption in an otherwise okay day are: grief grip, grief hole, grief spiral, grief labyrinth. Then there are all the accurate old established words: sorrow, anguish and suffering are at the top of my list.

  13. What is the word for the way you feel about non-grieving people, i.e., the living, and how tiresome and tedious they are with their frisking and frolicking and Instagramming and vacationing and children’s birthday parties while you have to do next-level adulting by dealing with the estate, throwing out tremendous amounts of your parent’s junk (junk without end), and doing nothing but administering medicine and running errands for your other elderly relatives who will probably also be gone in a few years also? What is the word for this feeling of NOT wanting to ever rejoin this shallow, deluded, spoiled, insensitive”celebrate life” crowd?

  14. Grief mask – what I put on everyday to go to work, gym, store, etc so everyone thinks I’m fine and I don’t have to talk about it

  15. Grief storm. My beautiful blue-eyed girls bday and angelversary are within 2 weeks of each other. Born in February and died in March, she is forever 31. Gone 8 years now. Practically the entire holiday season starting in October and ending in March (that is a half of a year, argh!) is the most difficult time to get through. Winter is my grief storm. I look forward to spring each year. I’m learning how to simultaneously carry my sorrow and my joy.

  16. Thank you for “griefmobile.” I always cry in the car, and I love this blog for reminding me that I’m not weird.

    Is there a word for when someone else has an illness or other event that is similar to what led to your loved one’s death, which brings on a grief wave while you’re also worried about this other person? “Triggered” doesn’t work for me personally.

  17. C. Michele MartindillJuly 4, 2019 at 1:34 amReply

    Widow Box: it’s where I toss all the self-help books and phone numbers people toss at me right before they run in the other direction in order to avoid having to talk to me about my grief. I know they don’t want me to call them, and I have no desire to read any more self-help books. They don’t fit my circumstances and most of them are just shallow. All widows have a widow box.

  18. Grief-Storm-Surge (like what happened to me two months ago when a grief-wave hit a lot harder and lasted a lot longer than usual…)

  19. Forbode-stalgia (rhymes with nostalgia). That feeling you have in the days leading up to the angelversary… where you see photos and memories from the days just before they died and have a sense of foreboding because you know you’re looking at the last days before a tragedy and can’t believe there wasn’t a sense of foreboding.

  20. Grief Tsunami – when a wave just doesn’t cut it. A friend going through a tragic loss came up with it

  21. Grief Zombie- When we are present but lost in our world of grief.

    marker- for lack of a better way to acknowledge special dates. I dont like the alternatives and have not come up with a better term so this is what I say. ‘Today is the 27 month market of of losing Kylie.

  22. Sangry-feeling sad and angry at the same time.

    This should be made into a book to help people laugh and realize they are not alone in their emotions.

  23. Grieveabit: when I need to go off by myself & let the tears flow at an otherwise happy event that I wish I were sharing with my deceased Dad.

    G-layer: when a new death compounds an older loss/death, leaving me feeling deeply wounded. Crying harder, louder, longer than I thought I would. An unpleasant surprise.

    Thank-you for this very wise article!

  24. Wonderful article. GREIFTHANKS to all’s who contributed. Should be a lovely book Very helpful
    GREIFHELPFUL. GREIFTHANKS

  25. These are great! No words for that profound emotional pain.
    I lost my mother then my husband then my father within 3 1/2 years.
    What’s up with the friends that disappear ?

  26. SOMETHING FOR ME.. I LOST BOTH MY DAUGHT AND HUSBAND WITHIN 5 MONTHS OF EACH OTHER

  27. Broken Heart Day – because that`s the day my heart broke when my son died. Anniversary leaves much to be desired. As a therapist – I find it difficult to use that word for my clients and certainly myself.

  28. Dead man/woman walking
    New abnormal
    Are in my vocabulary now.

    • I like the term new abnormal. It’s certainly more fitting than new normal, a phrase I detest. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Grief-mask – what I put on every day when I go anywhere, to work, to the store, to my sisters, so everyone thinks I ‘m fine and I don’t have to talk about it.

  30. Half-orphan…my daughter always refers to herself this way. She feels the loss of her dad so deeply.

  31. These are WONDERFUL!

  32. So many things I can relate to with all the comments. Crying while driving the car, is a big one with me. My husband has been gone 9 months. Married almost 50 years. It doesn’t seem like I will ever stop crying or find joy in my life again. Without my faith in God, I could not get through this.

  33. Is it strange that in my time of grief I find that I can now understand what I couldn’t before? I call it Grief-standing. I lost my Dad very unexpectedly just a little over a month ago. Before experiencing this shock I thought I could imagine it but boy was I wrong. Now I completely understand what others were feeling when it happened to them but I also give a pass to the ones that have not gone through this – They don’t know as I didn’t before.

  34. Grief merry-go-round: the state of feeling like you are “going around in circles” processing the same aspects of loss again and again. This happens when triggered by something that highlights your loss over and over. For me, taking care of anything that breaks down in the house since my husband died. Or maintaining the yard as that was his domain. I’m not being confronted with a new part of my grief, just the same reality time and again.

    Thanks for the list. I think where you are in your grief journey (another term) determines your ability to relate to this article. Someone above stated they didn’t find this helpful. I hope they access your other blogs as we each have different needs based on what we are experiencing. Peace to the authors who are providing support as they move through their own journey.

  35. We call Christmas Shitmas and The Holidays The Hellidays.

  36. My parents died of unrelated causes within two weeks of each other. My sister and I refer to their deaths as the grief bomb.

  37. As a recent widow (Feb. 14, 2019) and a bit of a long-time etymologist, I don’t find this list at all helpful. As a matter of fact, I think it’s ridiculous and inane. The topic is simply not funny. smh

    • Geez I really do NOT think anyone was making light of or in any way thinks grief is funny. I would guess all who are reading this are or have dealt with their own big loss and grief. Maybe it would help you to just lighten up a bit. Really? Taking offense to this article and the “words”? Come ON!!

    • I’m sorry about the death of your husband. I lost my husband when my children were little, and just recently my son was killed. I don’t think this horror is funny either and I get what your saying. What I also know is that some many months after my man died I invented my own language for grief – when it really dawned on me that it was never going to go back to the way it was, that I was in this place forever and he was actually dead, and more amazingly, that I was finding a way to stay alive through the pain. It’s the black humour of the survivor. Your loss is so recent that any flippancy about sorrow is just insulting. In another couple of years you will know viscerally why people do this, even if you love words too much to take it on board yourself. I wish you peace as you go through these dark days.

    • Sorry if this wasn’t a help to you. As mental health professionals who have been working in grief collectively for 25 years, we hear words like these all the time from grievers and when we asked about it the responses poured in. So, we know it resonates for some, we also know it doesn’t for all.

      We founded WYG after our own devastating losses because we felt there was void of sites that were having the kinds of discussions about loss that we wanted – discussions that often involved humor and concrete tools for coping. It is very right for some people and not at all right for others. If humor isn’t part of your coping, this might not be the ideal support space for you. Luckily there are many other great sites. We recommend griefhealing.com and grief.com as great sites that have a different tone than ours. Sorry this wasn’t a good fit and hope those are a help!

  38. I have a new book of poetry just published, The Evidence & The Evermore, which is about my son’s death and life after.

    • Well, although it sounds weird when I write it – congratulations on getting published. Where can we get a copy?
      I’d love to have one of your poems on my site.

  39. The words I use for friends who disappear while you are grieving: grief ghosts (noun) or grief ghosting (verb). Unfortunate to need these words.

  40. Grief-mobile – that’s me in our car – remembering when I was riding shotgun for my husband..
    He used to tell me that even going to a dr apt was like going on a date – as long as we were together.
    Now I drive around the area, and there is a reminder everywhere I go – that we were there together.
    How joyfully we’d take off from our driveway on our latest adventure. Now every time I back out of our driveway – I remember that horrible night I drove him out of our driveway – to the hospital, and his last ride with me. It’s been almost 3 years this month, and it till hurts more than I can describe.

    I also have one – “Widow’s Row” Last row in church where I sit with my other widowed lady friends

    • THANK you so much for putting into words exactly what I’m feeling. EXACTLY. I lost my sweet husband of 47 years 2 years ago this month. And like you I remember that last drive to the hospital like it happened last night. We too shared “car adventures”, which are so very, very painful to remember. THANK you for your words.

  41. Lost my husband I feel ZOMBIEIZED – half alive half dead….it sux!

    • Edward’s first comment reminded me of my experience when my Mom first started her terminal decline 2017 February 7…Zombie-ized! This happened in the morning but by lunchtime I was a FUNCTIONAL ZOMBIE…Mom died February 21 2017 and I am sure I had some creative words to describe my grief-journey like grief-funk, break-down, grief-buddy and such…can’t remember the others.

  42. I am a Bereavement Coordinator for a Hospice team. The term I use for half dead and half alive is “stastis” The place we exist in until God thinks we can handle the emotions.

  43. “Some experiences people have requested words for:
    Feeling half dead and half alive
    A person whose sibling died
    Friends who disappear while you’re grieving”

    These 3 things are exactly what I was looking for on this list, exactly where I’m at since my sister died at 37, just over a year ago. I couldn’t have predicted that my closest friends would no longer speak to me after that, and I still detest them for it, but try to get on with things the best I can, as all of you are doing.
    I have borrowed a phrase from my aunt for when I’m feeling low – “I’m having a DID Day” (a down-in-the-dumps day), and I’m glad to have found ‘Cloud Time’ here, b/c I do that a lot, sometimes in my ‘Griefmobile’. Thanks for the article.

  44. Susan – your description of a “half-life” is so acccurate for me. Not the life I had planned but the one I’m left with. Wondering if I’ll ever experience “joy” again.

    • I know the feeling. My husband/partner recently passed. Worst thing that has ever happened to me. Trying to move on without my best friend sux! Gods taking care of me though as he is with you.

  45. “Deathwork” – all the insane things one must do when your spouse dies (attorney, financial advisor, memorial service, funeral home, pick up ashes from funeral home, life insurance forms, SO MUCH PAPERWORK, )

    • Yes Laura! Deathwork more than describes it! I am executrix for my husband’s and mother’s estate. They passed within weeks of one another. I keep the door to my office closed, very difficult to go in there and try to work on the mountains of paperwork I have procrastinated on – even removed my landline due to the never ending calls. When I receive calls asking for my husband I just give out the cemetery’s number and usually don’t receive calls back. I become weary of telling whoever is asking for my husband that he died. It’s like ripping off a thousand bandaids again. I limit my visits to the post office to pick up mail. I’ve tried calling the junk mail senders to tell them to stop sending things addressed to him – it hurts to see his name plus I feel awful tossing it because it does have his name on it – I feel like I’m tossing a piece of him away. And it’s only junk mail!! He had been ill for years and I thought I was prepared / but found there is no preparation for death.

      • Marcia – I understand exactly what you mean about the mail/junk mail issue. My husband will have been gone for sixteen years in December, so the mail in his name has pretty much tapered off. But even now, every once in awhile something will show up in his name and it’s just like falling back down the Grief Wormhole. It drags me right back to the days just after he died, as if it where yesterday. I hate the hell out of it. And Christmas is pretty much still a total washout. My family seem to think I am insane for still being “so upset”. Not a whole lot of understanding or empathy…

    • The only reason “deathwork” exists is because Life finds the reality of death to be obscene and has proclaimed it a crime. Someone actually got away from Life, by actually dying, so society makes you process all this paperwork so that you understand death is always in poor taste and threatens to actually undermine everything Life stands for. It’s really meant as a a punishment.

  46. Our family has always used the word “graduated” for the day our loved one died. It was their “graduation” day!

  47. “Grand-Vilomah”; “Grand-Shakulim”; “Grand-Zeitlanger” … grandparent who has lost a grandchild.

  48. Thank you so much for the emails and articles (my griefthanks).

  49. Brogrief – grief for a brother.

  50. I always feel half dead and half alive- I call this state I am in my half-life. Not the life I had or planned for but the one I am left with.
    Half of me is missing, I am not the same, I live a “half-life”.

  51. Friends who disappear when you’re grieving- “alive-weather friends”

  52. “Invisible widow” –Girlfriend of someone who never finalized his divorce before he died.

  53. “Invisible widow”–girlfriend of someone who never finalized their divorce with their wife before they died.

    • I just love the phrase” Invisible Widow” . it feels right for several different things including first wives and same sex companions and partners. Thank you for this phrase.

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