How Are You? – The Impossible Question

“How are you?”

I never know how to answer that question anymore.

It can seem like a very silly and careless question, when you are going through grief. 

Do you REALLY want to know?

I want what I say and do to be genuine and truthful in every way. But if we are honest, most folks can’t handle the facts. 

If you want a generic, affirming answer, just so you can tick it off your list that you did your duty and checked in on me, you’d better not ask, I guess. 

Folks want us to be good—okay—better—great!  

Smile, laugh, next!  Let’s go to lunch and pretend you aren’t screaming inside! 

“I’m fine.”  “I’m ok.”  What does that even mean??  

Most of the time, my answer will be “I don’t know,” accompanied by a shoulder shrug and a pained or confused look on my face. It’s not because I’m looking for attention or sympathy—it’s simply the truth. I am numb, but I am still angry. I am sad, but I am also glad my loved one doesn’t have to suffer here anymore. I am confused, but I have to keep moving, working, living… I’m a realist. I don’t like saying things that are disingenuous. 

There are too many emotions under that broad umbrella of three little words…


If we have the courage to look deep down inside, beyond those standard, safe replies, I think that the answer is far too deep and soul searching to ponder, so we just cover it up with a sweet, syrupy comeback…

Do we cave to the pressures of their expectations, of how our culture “thinks” grief and loss should look?

So, maybe, some replies we can use are these:  

It’s been hard. 
Thanks for asking. 
I’m struggling a lot today. 
I’m not sure how I feel, but I am glad you care enough to ask. 
Maybe tomorrow I will feel better. Please don’t stop inviting me. 
Pray for me. 

This is YOUR journey, and we are teaching those around us how to handle loss, when it comes their way.  

Yeah, I know. Lucky us….

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