Today I had lunch with a dear friend who also has had more than her share of loss this year. One of the things we talked about is how frequently we are asked, “How ARE you?” — usually with a concerned facial expression and tilt of the head.
Or worse, “Hey! How’s it going?” — followed by a facial expression that says, oh crap I totally forgot her son just died and of course she’s not doing ok and I can’t believe I just asked her that question.
And it happens on my side of the question, too. Someone will ask me how I’m doing, and out of pure habit I answer, “Great! How are you?” And then I’m sure my facial expression says, oh crap of course I’m not ‘great’ and now I probably look like I’m either totally lying or totally in denial and I don’t want to correct myself now but I feel awkward and I just want to change the subject.
The real answer is, I’m ok. And devastated. And fine. And heartbroken. And motivated to make the most of life. And exhausted. And excited about being back at work. And struggling to stay focused. And a million other emotions. I’m ALL of these things. Sometimes all at once, sometimes a different one every ten minutes.
I’ve decided that the best question for someone to ask me is, “How are you, today?” That’s usually a question I can answer. And more and more often, the answer is genuinely, “Today, I’m doing well.”
Because the reality is, I do have good days. Maybe not “great” days, but certainly not the can’t-get-out-of-bed days that I would have expected someone who just lost a child would have. Until that someone was me.
Because now I realize, you just don’t know how much you can live through until you have no choice. I can’t choose to bring Julian back to life, but I can choose to honor his life and his memory by working hard on my healing journey. I can choose to not get stuck in the deep well of grief. I can choose to aggressively pursue a future that is filled with happiness and joy.
I know that eventually I’ll be able to honestly answer, “Great!” when someone asks me how I’m doing. But in the meantime, if you run into me (or anyone else in your life who is grieving), don’t ask “How ARE you?” Instead, ask: “How are you… today?”