Why Do People Seem Reluctant To Mention The Dead?

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Dear Laura,
Why do people seem reluctant to mention the dead?

Dear Anon., To quote Stevie Wonder: Superstition. In past times people thought that by mentioning the dead you were conjuring up uncontrolled spirits and making yourself susceptible to their evil doings. Others believed that it left the dead unable to rest. Hollywood still perpetuates this myth: Beatlejuice, Beatlejuice, Beatlejuice!

This practice of not mentioning the dead continues on in our Western society for other reasons as well: we are afraid of bringing up something that may make someone else uncomfortable, OR we are uncomfortable with another person’s grief. If a grieving person appears to be doing okay, we convince ourselves that if we mention the person’s name who died it will only re-upset them.

The irony is that by NOT mentioning the dearly departed, we are actually causing MORE pain to family and survivors. It isolates them in their grief and adds great sorrow for them to think they are the only ones missing the deceased or caring. As if the shock and adjustment of not having their loved one close, hearing them, or being able to call to them in the next room weren’t enough – the grieving slip into a void were others stop mentioning the departed’s name. It’s doubly tragic.

I think it’s time we started a movement where we go into the thing we fear the most and openly acknowledge the departed to those who remain. The sky won’t fall open and swallow us all up. It will actually help the grieving to heal and bring them comfort to not feel so alone and isolated in their grief. And what’s so scary about that?