We all get asked the question “How are you?” a great deal.
In our current season of loss, I can be asked this exact same question by various people within minutes of each other and it elicits completely different emotions for me.
Interestingly, when someone, who knows our circumstance, asks this question with a tone of care and an apparent desire to know what it’s like in our world right now, I feel loved and cared for. If I perceive they actually really want to know how I am doing, rather than just making light conversation, this question, in fact, endears them to me.
On the other hand, when someone is aware of our grief and appears to flippantly ask “How are you?” it evokes strong pangs of pain. It feels insensitive and hurtful. I tend to want to respond by saying, “Crappy! I just lost my precious son…how do you think I’m doing?” Of course, I’ve never actually said that, but I’ve been tempted. Instead, I simply reply, “I’m hangin’ in there.”
Then there are still others who ask “How are you?” and are completely clueless that we just lost our son after 5 months of suffering. This creates internal turmoil for me. I am aware that they probably don’t really want to know how I’m doing, but it also feels like I am betraying my heart to pretend that everything is fine. I usually respond with an “Okay.” But as I leave their presence, I ponder what it might have looked like if I had actually told them that my sweet little boy just died.
Though the question, “How are you?” flows freely off our tongues in this culture, after this experience, I will probably be far more cautious with how I use these words.
Post Script: If you’re reading this and have asked me, “How are you?” please assume that I felt loved and cared for when you asked.