Grief and the Holidays: Answers for the "How are you?" Question

People who know you have just lost someone you love will ask you, "How are you?"

They may never have gone through what you are going through.  They may have some vague notion that grief recovery is a matter of days or weeks, not years -- a lifetime.

Whenever the Holidays are upon us, I think about the heartless and cruel things people did and said after my mother died unexpectedly back in the summer of 2000.  (A compilation of "what not to say to someone in grief" will be a subject for another day.) One of the difficult recurring social situations is when you get that cue to speak.  The light comes on, the camera is rolling.  What do you say?

How are you?

There are two kinds responses that seem to work.  One is to fly under the radar -- lie and say you're fine.  The question is not really a question after all, but rather a kind of species of tribal ritual (think dog-sniffing).

The other response that seems to work is pure deflection.  Take the force of the question and direct it back to the questioner:
You look fabulous!
I am so glad to see you!
Wow look at your decorations!

What follows are some answers that flowed from the sluggish Crowndot brain during a few minutes before the coffee kicked in this morning:

Fine.  You?
Fine.  You've got a lotta nerve asking that.
Fine, you insensitive boor.
Oh. Just peachy.  My Mom just died.  Did you forget? 
Fine. You didn't want the truth, did you?
Oh about as well as could be expected.
About fair.
On a good day, only fair; on a bad day... And don't ask if today's a bad day.
Well, I'm up and dressed today...
Better, thanks.
Better, no thanks to you.
About the same.  You?
Like I've been cut a thousand times  then set on fire and they put the fire out with salt and lemon juice.
Contagious.  Stay back!
Radioactive.  I will kill anyone who gets too close.
I'll be all right.
I'll be all right once I get back to some kind of routine.
I'll be all right once I get some "issues" sorted out.
I'll be all right once I get away from this party.
I'll be all right once I get away from you.
Kind of numb.
Kind of angry.
Kind of struggling.
Oh, y'know...
Everything still hurts.
I still can't believe she's gone.
I'm not afraid of death any more.
Hungry.  Where's the nibbles?

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