Saturday, July 15, 2006

How Are You?

I remember my SIL Laura saying how hard it was, after her mom passed away, to answer people who asked, "How are you?" The correct answer would have been "horrible" but of course that wasn't what people wanted to hear.

Today I went garage saling in Brownsville. For my birthday gift, Amy said she'd keep the house running smoothly and clean and make meals while I went garage saling. It was great therapy, walking in the sunshine and finding two crock-pots and a travel bag for shampoo and such. But I was still an inch away from bursting into tears every half hour or so which was rather awkward.

At every turn there were cheerful garage sale ladies saying, "Good morning! How are you?"
My options were:
a) ignore them (rude)
b) "fine" (a lie)
c) "rejoicing in the Lord" (reasonably true but not my style)
d) "Okay" (more accurate but sounds grumpy)
e) "Actually, I am still deeply grieving for my nephew who passed away two weeks ago and it has been very very hard and I wonder if it's always going to hurt and there are just so many questions that I'll never have answers for and [serious waterfall of tears]"

I vote that we don't say "How are you?" to people unless we really want to hear the answer.

Meanwhile, applause to two women I saw today: FV, who listened to my weepy story and said I can call her any time I want, and who shared her own struggles with suicidal depression. And to MB, who very unexpectedly gave me a hug and expressed her sympathies.


  1. seeing all this from your perspective and being able to read whats in your heart is a form of therapy for me right now I know all to well the "how are you" question???? I have no good answere All I can say is every morning as I drag myself out of bed I pray "Lord you need to get me through today" and every night the prayer is "thank you I some how got through another very long day"

  2. Dear Net, I'm assuming you're Annette. We're thinking and praying and feeling with you. I pray too that God will get you through these tough days. Thanks for letting us hear from you.

  3. It is very hard to know how to answer that question when going thru the grief of losing someone we love.But thank God for those who really care and want to know.May God continue to bring those friends into your day.After losing a Dad to suicide, I thot my eyes would never stop leaking, but thanks to God our Healer, Life does go on and we can smile again.

  4. I usually have sort of a gauge of what kind of person is asking on how I answer. If it is someone who is going to act strangely towards me from here on out, they usually just get a fake smile and "fine".
    I went into a used bookstore the other day and the owner asked me for real how I was, and I ended up telling him and merited a hug.

  5. I know people are just being polite when they ask this question, but it does make it difficult for people who are going through tough situations. Do they really expect you to be honest and tell them exactly how you are feeling? Not most of them. They are just doing the American thing of being polite. In Poland, when you ask "How are you?" they simply say, "Thank you!" and isn't that how I should acknowledge my friends' questions. "I'm feeling awful today, but 'thank you' for caring enough to ask. May God give you grace, Dorcas, on answering this innocent question that sometimes feels like rudeness and intrusion.

  6. Dorcas, i've run into your dilemma lots of times and this is what I've decided: there are three different part of a person, physical, spiritual, and emotional. And at any given point, at least one of these is usually in good shape. Since most people don't specify which part they are inquiring about, I can do my own interpretation and say, "Fine" without telling a lie. If a person is inquiring about a specific part, he's usually interested and cares about how I really am. So I can answer that question the way it was asked. Am I taking too many liberties in my speech? Pauline

  7. I can so relate........people at work who knew why i was off for ten days come around and ask HOW ARE YOU? which leaves me bewildered as to how to answer them. um, i hope i still can put one foot in front of the other tomorrow morning. The other question that makes me bewildered is, HOW DID HE DIE? when does one draw the line at just too much information? and yes, hugs mean more than any pat answers or even well meaning words. so excuse me if i just shower hugs down on all the people around me!
    sil geneva

  8. Dorcas -
    I just came across your post thru a link from nephew Byran's blog.
    It appears that I might be the only "guy" so far that has found my way onto this particular post, but just so you'll know ... guys DO have feelings for this sort of dilemma too.

    So many of us have had to endure the Lord's decision to call back a special loved one who has been so close to us, and yet even with the personal experience of such grief behind us..(or even 'beside' us at the time) .. we'd be lieing to say "I understand your loss." There's simply NO WAY any of us could possibly understand. Because it's different in each and every case.

    But because God is here, and God is in each of us, we can, and WILL endure .. if only to honor that special person we so grieve for at the present.

    And although even a simple "How are you" seems to absolutely tie your heart into knots at times, maybe it's a blessing ... compared to some of the more exhausting sympathies that people who actually KNOW of your loss could bestow on you.

    Admittedly though, a hug might be better, huh.

    So God bless you and yours - and a big ole' silent hug from..

    GMartin of Texas