How are you?

How are you?  It’s small talk. It’s what comes naturally after the requisite exchange of “hi.”  It’s what the waiter asks when you go out to eat.  It’s almost rude not to ask it.  And the natural answer is “Fine” or “Good” and then ask the question back.  It’s the American greeting, expected chit chat.  But this question is not that simple.  When someone asks, sometimes I reflexively say “fine” or “okay.”  The “okay” might have a sad intonation to it.  But these are lies.  This simple question, this easy nicety is a hard one to answer.  Truth is, I feel sad.  Every day and all day long.  I’m not sure what the desired or expected answer is.  I’ve learned that saying “Sad” right off the bat disarms people.  Apparently it’s not what is expected.  They stammer and the mood of the conversation, which has barely begun, turns dark.  I’ve said “up and down,” which makes people a little more comfortable.  They can assume that maybe I’m in an up moment.  If I say “fine” or “okay” because at that very moment, in the instance that they ask I might be ok.  I might not be crying or unable to get out of bed at that moment, but I’m afraid people will take it as how I feel all the time.  It’s a funny thing about our customary greeting, because I can be asked the same question twice within minutes or even seconds of each other.

How are you?

Okay. How are you?

Good.  So how aaaare you??

Weird, right?  I have become so attuned to what people say and read into them more than I should. Maybe it’s because I have so much time on my hands or maybe it’s because even the simple things are not simple anymore.  My life is now complicated by the death of my baby.  It overshadows everything I do; it’s the monkey on my back.   I think I might have a better response to “what was today like?” or “how do you feel right now?”

I over interpret everything- not just “how are you.”  Things I see on facebook- “enjoying some alone time” or “work is an escape from the kids,” feel like personal insults.  As if they are trying to rub their living children in my face.  This is not their intention, but these are literally the thoughts that go through my head.

I had a break down after an exchange on a babyloss message board.  A woman posted about the upcoming 1 year anniversary of the death of her child and how she was dreading it.  At first I felt like I didn’t have anything to contribute because I am far from that day myself, don’t have any words of wisdom.  But a day passed and there was no response yet.  When I post on the board, I eagerly await responses from others and until they come, I feel so alone, like no one is reading or caring.  So I finally posted something short- mentioning how I’m not there yet but I was thinking of her and asked if she planned anything to honor her child.  Another person finally posted saying how they didn’t do anything to “celebrate” the one year anniversary of her loss.  And I felt like such a fool.  I felt like that person was criticizing me for even suggesting she do something.  I was a sobbing fool over this exchange because I just read so much into everything now.

I’m on edge when I send texts and they are not returned.  I take offense if someone says something with good intentions but hit me the wrong way.  I cry way too easily.  I know this is all part of the process.  Maybe this is my way of asking for forgiveness-  my answers might seem short, I might seem distant, I might be overly sensitive.  I feel so darn needy lately.  Forgive me- t’s just that nothing is easy these days.

4 thoughts on “How are you?

  1. One of my dear friends lost her daughter when she was several hours old about two years ago. As I read your posts, I am reminded of what she went through and what she continues to go through. One the one year anniversary of her birth/passing, she mailed cards that read “remembering our Emma on her first birthday.” I thought it was sweet and I keep it visible to remember her and her daughter in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. I’m touched by what you have written. I had and lost my baby girl, Scout, on March 12th. She was 41+5 weeks when they found no heartbeat and our lives were altered forever.
    I feel like you – I don’t want to say I’m fine or okay. It sounds selfish but, although I am coping reasonably well most of the time, I want people to know the depth of my grief and the importance of the little life we made and lost. I also can’t ask people how they are, even though I spend time thinking of how I should! I feel like I need to be selfish in my grief.
    I admire your sharing through your blog and understand the journey you’re on. Feel free to email me should you like to. xx

  3. That response you received was very sad. You certainly didn’t mean to offend, and there was nothing wrong with what you said. It’s HEALTHY to do something on otherwise painful days. When anniversaries of deaths come up, doing something to remind you of the person’s life and helps you cope (looking through photo albums, baking a cake, even going on vacation if it helps you deal with the pain) is good and is natural. People die, and we ache for them because we will not see them again. We keep their memory alive through us. In our church, on the anniversary of the death of our loved ones, we bring a special food to the church called kolliva that represents the goodness of life and the reality of death. We aren’t celebrating death, but we are remembering those we love. Ignoring the reality of the fact that that day is and always will represent pain and loss, but we only feel pain and loss because we loved the one who has died so much, right? So we can continue loving them by remembering them.

    I know your post was mostly about taking things the wrong way and being at the end of your emotional rope (I feel the same way…), but this really stuck out to me and I don’t think you should feel bad about what you said AT ALL.

  4. My father died 10 years ago when I was only 18 years old. He is my best friend. Not a day goes by that I dont think about him, our moments shared together and how much I miss him!. And each passing Birthday and Anniversary of his death, my family gets together (physically or online) to honor my Father and the life he lived.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if that person who responded to your post also celebrates Christmas and Easter– the birth and death of another human. Some people are very hypocritical.

    Also, thank you for your stories and opening up your heart and soul. Your are very brave!

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