Does English have a word for the experience of forgetting that a loved one has passed away, and being shaken when something reminds you? For example, someone I know recently had a loved one pass away. Their brother mentioned the other day that her car was still in the parking lot at work. Their first response was, "wait, why would her car be at that particular parking lot?" She then answered herself with "oh, right, she's dead."

  • 2
    Please edit your question to show how you intend the word to be used in a sentence. E.g. after your car example, you might add "She chided herself for her ___". Or "She felt ___".
    – Lawrence
    Mar 11, 2016 at 16:52
  • Closely related -english.stackexchange.com/questions/302418/…
    – BiscuitBoy
    Mar 11, 2016 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


This is a delicate situation where the choice of word might differ based on the speaker, as well as the reaction of others to what has been said.

A neutral term is 'lapse':

noun 1. an accidental or temporary decline or deviation from an expected or accepted condition or state; a temporary falling or slipping from a previous standard: a lapse of justice. 2. a slip or error, often of a trivial sort; failure: a lapse of memory.

While 'often of a trivial sort', the term can be augmented with other words, as in 'mental lapse' or 'lapse of memory'.

If someone else is upset on hearing this conversation, or upon hearing 'Oh, right, she's dead', the one who has said it might chastise herself for the error (or be chastised by others) with a more pejorative term than lapse:

Blunder: noun 1. a gross, stupid, or careless mistake

Finally, a more objective take on the situation could see it as an instance of denial, the so-called first stage of grief.

  1. Psychology. an unconscious defense mechanism used to reduce anxiety by denying thoughts, feelings, or facts that are consciously intolerable.

Why do we tend to avoid the process of grief?

The normal range of feelings that accompany loss can be uncomfortable. No one likes feeling this discomfort. People are tempted to deny the feelings, cover them up (with alcohol, food, high drama conversations, etc.) or simply ignore them. (source)

This is called experiential avoidance.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.