Answering the question “How are you?”

A question I often ask people when I see them is “How are you doing?”

Perhaps you have done this, too?

Have you ever really paid attention
to how people answer this question?

Most of the time, I’d say about 90% of the time, people say -

  “I’m fine!”

I’ve said those words and I’ve meant them.

There are a lot of things that are “fine” in my life…

Then there are the other times when I’ve said “I’m fine!” and I realize it is a lie.
It sounds kinda serious, I know.
If saying “I’m fine!” isn’t the whole truth and only a half truth at best…
What do you call that?!

I don’t know about you but I don’t like the thought of telling a lie and I certainly don’t like actually telling a lie, either!  That’s why I find myself taking a deep breath and pausing a moment before I answer the question “How are you?”

Answering this question truthfully can be especially challenging when I am grieving.
I wonder if people are asking as a way to engage me in conversation, if it is a formality or
if they really want to know?

Often times when I ask someone “How are you?” and they glibly say “I’m fine!”
I ask the question again like this:  “Good!  Now, how are you REALLY?!”
You’d be surprised at the answers I get the second time around!

Why is this so important?
Does it matter if I say “I’m fine” and on the inside I’m really not?
Does it?

I say it does matter.
Here’s why…

It is easy for a person who is grieving to lose touch with reality and to just kind of exist.
It hurts too much to feel… and the intensity of their feelings is not something they quite know what to do with.  So, it’s just easier to say “I’m fine!” and yet on the inside they are crying and all the time wishing someone would notice or read their mind that they really would like to express exactly how they feel!

They’d really like to express themselves and be HEARD…
without judgement, analyzing, criticizing or fixing!

The very best thing you can do for yourself when you are grieving is
to tell the truth ALL THE TIME!

Telling the truth all the time will make the present moment a reality.  This means you will not get stuck in the past.  Memories that are shared can bless both the one who is sharing and the listener.

Telling the truth all the time will help you give a voice to the deep pain and hurt that is inside you.  This means there is less chance of you bottling up your feelings to cause you much more grief later.

Telling the truth all the time keeps you from isolating yourself as grievers often do.
This means you will have the opportunity of identifying your feelings and then give
your grief a voice and let it be heard.

Telling the truth all the time gives others an opportunity to listen.
This means you will feel understood and heard and know others care about you.

So the next time someone asks you “How are you?” I encourage you to tell them the truth!
Express what is on your heart.

You can say things like “I’m having a rough day” or “It’s been an interesting week.”
More than likely they will respond by asking you what happened.
This is your opportunity to share a little more and to dig a little deeper
into what it is you really are feeling.

At first you may feel quite vulnerable when you do this.
I know I did!

The blessings I received in sharing my heart and telling the truth when someone asked me how I was far outweighed those moments when I felt like I was exposing everything for the world to see!

Sharing my heart and feelings brought a new understanding of the law of giving and receiving.  I realized when I did not “tell the truth” about how I really was
the challenge I faced and the load of grief I carried stayed with me
and was mine alone.

I found when I shared with others I was in a place to receive their
support and love and compassion.
You don’t have to grieve alone.
You can share your hurt and pain with others.

They may not always understand or even give much comfort.

However, you can keep moving forward, knowing you are not only telling the truth to others who ask how you are but you are telling the truth to yourself…
and that, my dear friend, makes all the difference!

Grief is a normal, natural response to an emotional loss.
Acknowledging your feelings will help you identify how you really do feel
and create the space where you can deal with the emotion as it comes.
Ignoring your feelings and emotions will have the opposite effect
and only prolong the grief until some time later.

This is like setting a tea kettle on the stove and turning the stove on high…
when the steam builds up enough pressure there is going to be an explosion!

Give yourself the gift of telling the truth…  100 % of the time!

“How are you?  Really?!”

With love and compassion,
~Susan Holsinger
Certified Grief Recovery Specialist

Ps.  A prayer for you…

 

 

 

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