Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Lies Imprison, The Truth Liberates...

“Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images, whatever is omitted from biography, censored in collections of letters, whatever is misnamed as something else, made difficult-to-come-by, whatever is buried in the memory by the collapse of meaning under an inadequate or lying language - this will become, not merely unspoken, but unspeakable.” 

-Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected prose

An Open Letter to Those Who Use Lying Language

Dear fellow clinicians and academics, family and friends, strangers and heroes, 

I grow weary of your lying language. When you speak for me - for my child - do not soften the blow of the words that sufficiently describe the horror.

I did not experience a "situation."

This is not an "unfortunate happenstance."

I need not exclude my child, should I choose not to, in the tally of my children.

My child is not "in a better place".

It is not "easier" to lose a baby than a teenager, nor is it "harder" to lose a teenager than an adult child.

Someone's loved one who died isn't "the corpse". And the death of my baby during birth is not a "pregnancy or reproductive loss". 

Stop your lying language and do not speak for me. I find your prevarications offensive, minimizing, trivializing, and superficial.

The "situation" is actually an unspeakable tragedy.  Call it what it is.

The "unfortunate happenstance" is the trauma that changed my life forever.

If you say I have four children, you are lying. I have five. If I say I have four children, it may be because I do not trust you on such sacred ground. I have the authority to make that choice for myself. You do not.

That "better place" you describe is not better for me as a mother longing to put my arms around my child.

To lose a baby is to lose a child, as valuable and precious as any other child. To lose an adult child is to lose a "baby" as valuable and precious as any younger child. Love and grief are not contingent on the time spent with a child.

And the "corpse", "fetus," or  "pregnancy loss" to which you refer does not - in the least - speak the truth about the death of my plump, ebony haired, olive skinned daughter. She is not a corpse to me, I did not lose a pregnancy, and don't say I did. I lost my daughter, my baby girl, all 8 pounds and 22" inches of her perfect body.

Your fraudulent language contributes to what Rich calls the "lies, secrets, and silence."

Stop it. Now. 

Take your duplicitous language, write it on a piece of paper, light it aflame, and say farewell to the propaganda and cultural manipulation and death avoidance that has plagued our society far too long. And if you are in our bereavement and professional community and you promulgate this language, then you are a part of the problem and an accomplice to a systemic and harmful fairytale that diminishes and devalues all our precious ones.

I realize you may not be sophisticated enough to understand this or that you may be uncomfortable with the reality of traumatic death, but I implore you to stop your writing about things which you do not and cannot fathom. Stop using your voice to tell my story. Your words are a prison of deceit, constricting and distorting the authenticity of my sentence of 'suffering'.

It is time for truth.  And the truth shall set us both - and the world - free.


Denise said...


SOSheree said...

Thank you for writing this. Excuse my language but I'm beyond fucking sick of people even in our community calling the loss of my son a miscarriage. I'm sharing this.

Unknown said...

So well said, for all of us bereaved parents. Thank you so much for writing this. May I share it?

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Mickey- of course!

SOShere, I'm sorry. Keep gently telling them. If gentle doesn't work, I'll be happy to call...

Anonymous said...

So well said. The avoidance of the words death and dead is hurtful. I even find myself occasionally talking about my daughter's "transition", rather than her death, only because I worry that I'll make someone else too uncomfortable. I commit to using language that tells the truth, in whatever way will be best for me in that moment, without worrying about how hard my daughter's death is for another...

Thank you Joanne, for your fire and your wisdom.
love, Lucia

Mary Friedel-Hunt said...

Joanne, I have to say that every time someone says their loved one "passed on" or "passed over", I truly do want to grab them by the throat. Their loved one died....

I like the comment from the woman who thanked you for your fire...I will add to that, I thank you for your passion, your straight forward and clear message. Now, the challenge is to get the world to read this...the entire world. You have started it and hopefully everyone who reads it will share it.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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