How Are You?

By Arielle Ford

I feel distressed when people ask me the simple question, “How are you?”

What was once the easiest question in the world for me to answer has now become the hardest.

In the past, my answer was always some enthusiastic version of “life’s great.”
And it was.
The way my life has turned out has exceeded every hope, wish, or dream I’ve ever had and then some.

However, since my sister Debbie’s death, it is a nightmare to hear the question,  “how are you?”

That is because I have two kinds of days these days:

On some days I am sad, depressed and weepy. On the other days I feel almost normal….I can think straight finally and although I am not “happy” I am certain that my core happiness is still in me and eventually I will be happy again.

The problem with “how are you?” is that if I am having a sad day, and the person asking isn’t one of a small handful of people that I feel comfortable sharing my “truth” with, I am at a loss for what to say without being disingenuous.

If I am having one of my “almost normal” days, I also don’t know what to say. Even though I may feel okay, or even remotely hopeful, I am still grieving and it just does not feel right to be my normal optimistic self. In fact,  somehow the question alone can trigger me into having a sad day.

A friend of mine has tried to convince me that the question is just a “social nicety” and doesn’t really need much of a response, yet I haven’t yet figured out a “stock” answer that can move the conversation along quickly.

I realize that most people asking genuinely care, but often they want to know a whole lot more that I am willing to share.  Plus nearly everyone I know either knew my sister, or knew of her, and many are going through their own feelings of loss and are in need of comfort themselves. It’s really difficult for me to acknowledge this—and I guess it’s another reason I am troubled by the “how are you” question – but I just don’t have it in me to help others feel better right now. And I feel pressured by social niceties.

I know if my sister would tell me to just allow myself to feel my pain, the loss, and the need for privacy and not worry about others at this time. She would say, “You are lovable… even when you are struggling and even when you are not feeling like a nice person.”

One of the most difficult conversations I have been getting pulled into is conversations about “what grieving is about.”  In those scenerios, people try to offer recommendations and “support.”  I know people think they are comforting me, but they really aren’t. I find it draining and uncomfortable.

I began life as an introvert but made a conscious decision to study extroverts until I became one myself.   In the past few months I feel myself reverting back to my introverted ways. I just don’t have the inclination or energy to share myself.  I think it is just where I need to be at this moment in time.  According to many experts in the know, this it totally normal.  I suppose this is normal but honestly, normal or not, it’s just how I am right now.

So, I am grateful for caller ID—and friends, loved ones, and acquaintances who are kind, understanding, and aware enough to know that sometimes the best way to support someone through a process like this is to just allow them their space. And to not feel compelled to ask that dreaded question, “how are you?”

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37 Responses to How Are You?

  1. Trisha says:

    remember…you are a MIRACLE…love and light…Trish

  2. Jana Dieter says:

    You can be however you need to be, Arielle. Those who love you will understand.

  3. You said it so well, about how it is with grief. So few can articulate the myriad feelings of sadness that go with it. Thank you for sharing, Arielle!

  4. Wrenne West says:

    I understand and support you in your healing. I’ve been praying for you and will continue. <3

  5. Darren Martin says:

    Arielle,

    I give you peace on your inner journey toward oneness. You can feel however you want to feel, but you and I both know that everything will be alright.

    Love can be shared in many different ways. I’m glad you decided to share your grief with us.

    Beautiful Days,
    Always

    Darren

    PS. Love to you and your husband and family…

  6. Arielle,

    I am so sorry. I did not know. Grief is a terrible club that one one wants to belong to. I found some comfort reading Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Finding meaning for my suffering helped me. My heart goes out to you. Reading your books even though they were not about grief helped me also.

  7. My dear Arielle,

    I am a licensed psychotherapist in California with over 35 years experience. When I went through unmitigated pain & trauma due to many, many, many deaths over a period of years, to those who
    asked “How are you doing?” I answered in ways that worked quite well for me. I, tooi, didn’t want to share my state of trauma, lostness, terror, confusion, etc. yet–just as you–I also didn’t want to be inauthentic.

    By sharing these things I said, I am confident that you will find your own words and ways to protect
    yourself during this most vulnerable time.

    Thank you for asking. Some days are a little better than others.
    It’s a completely unpredictable process, so there’s not really much I want to say.
    I find that it makes it even more difficultwhen I talk about it, but thank you for caring about me.
    Some people will challenge that. My response was
    We’re not all wired up the same way. For me it’s excruciating. (or far too painful, OR
    it makes it even harder, etc.)

    I hope this helps. You owe nobody anything! You lost your sister. Please protect yourself
    during this time of raw vulnerabilty! People in this country don’t know much about healthy
    grieving even when they’re sincere and concerned about you. Stay close to those who
    ease things even just a little, and honor your feelings about Debbie.

    I’m so very sorry you’re going through this. You who bring such light & love to the world.

    Solange Milan, LMFT, DAPA

  8. Rita Massey says:

    Thank you for sharing, Arielle. So beautifully said.

    I honor you for honoring your grief. Grief takes time and a rhythm all of its own.

    I believe you can honestly say you are doing well if you are honoring your process. You don’t always have to be feeling good to be doing well as the richness of life takes on many forms. As a matter of fact, you are probably doing fabulously well right now.

    Wishing you peace on your journeys.

    Namaste

  9. Darsi says:

    You bring so much light and love to the world, and now is a time for you to honor the darkness you’re walking through. Grief is a personal, sacred process and needs to be honored as such. It’s okay to say whatever you want or feel compelled to say when asked “how are you”? People fear they are rude if they don’t ask, and so they ask … and ask … and ask. They mean well, but you already know that. You will grieve in your own way, for as long as it takes, one day at a time, doing the best you can in each moment. You will come through to the other side, even though that feels impossible. You will get back to bringing light, love, joy and fun to the world, and you will honor Debbie in doing so. God Bless you!

  10. Debra Evans says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this, Arielle. Your realness is deeply comforting. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to express these thoughts and feelings. It’s a balm on my cracked heart. Thinking of you and sending a hug, Deb

  11. Maryalice says:

    <3 Take care of your tender heart… you are loved

  12. Death and/or departure of someone we deeply love is a “terrible” Initiation. We all know that there is light on the other side of an Initiation, but going through it is like being in a tunnel of darkness. I wish you much tenderness through this one.
    I’m reminded of the story of the Buddhist Master whose son died. The master was crying, which shocked his students. One of them asked, “Master, why are you crying?” The Master replied, “Because my son died.” The student said, “Yes, master, but why are you crying?” The Master repeated, “Because my son died!” Those who give much love, also feel much love and the pain of loss as well. Sending you Light & Healing for your heart, Cie Simurro

  13. Carol says:

    Ariel

    Thankyou for sharing so transparently your grieving process and how it feels in connection to being with others you connect with.
    Your process reveals the need for sensitivity now and at all times to connect with where you are in your grieving process and what is most supportive for you and not impose our own values on you. That is really pointing to a deeper process for any connection. When there is that deep connecting with acceptance and compassion, there is more energy there We are one in essence and unique in expression , wired differently . Some need to talk and others need more space….introversion. The greatest gift you can give is to yourself and others is to honour your needs and set clear boundaries as you are doing here.
    Another thing that came from to me from your sharing is the intensity of life when in painful emotions like grief yet the flip side of this is the deep love that is there because of the grief. Holding space for you to allow this tender process of love and grief to move thru you. Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings
    Carol

  14. Donna Reynolds says:

    Dear Arielle
    A lot of us of a certain age were trained to not make others feel uncomfortable and it’s a very hard thing to ignore. While for the most part humanity could use more people treating others with this golden rule respect, grieving is a time to wrap yourself in self love. It’s NOT selfish,it’s NOT rude or disrespectful to not answer any ones quesrions ( excpet maybe to yourself for feeling the need{ pressure} to) Take the time you need for yourself to heal. Love isn’t conditional. You have given others so much, it’s time to give all the love you need for yourself. THAT is also part of the life force and light within.

  15. Darien says:

    How are you?
    “I’m getting through it. Thank you for asking.”

    It’s what I say – and I say it from my deeper self – my truest self. I let them know that I appreciate their asking – and I don’t have to go into how I’m feeling, really.
    This is all they know to ask. They may not want something long and involved.
    They just want to let you know they care.

    Hugs.

  16. Josely says:

    In 2009 i lost 3 of the most important people in my life. First was my best friend,cancer,i was left alone…6 months later, my boyfriend,cancer too, and i stay with both till the final moments.
    Alone and sad… When i heard my dear aunt died, i feel nothing… It was too much.
    The only thing that really was comforti g for me ? I still have my own life and path… I had those partners, i loved them and i still miss them (sometimes so much!) but i live my live the same way. Now you and your friends send me messages , i am still growing, you are a partner in my path. I am not wabi sabi lover yet, but you showed me something really important!
    So, give yourself the best wabi sabi love you can, and know you are imperfectelly loved by all of us, the people you touched( even when we ask you stupid questions…) .

  17. Fran says:

    I can SO relate Arielle. And you are right: Debbie would tell you to love and hold yourself as privately as you need to right now. Sending you love.

  18. Ava says:

    Dear sweet Arielle,
    Sending reams of light across the waves of Universal Love to you,
    Ava x

  19. Lucy says:

    Arielle,
    Just know that it will be over and you will be happy again. Sending you love,
    Lucy

  20. Jeannette says:

    Loving your honesty! It will have been almost two years since my Brother’s passing and it is now that I am finally at a place where I am comfortable talking to people about it. Just like you, I was uncomfortable talking to people. Recently I went through a break up with someone and grieved it. It didn’t feel good in the moment but after, I felt so much better. Perhaps you may want to take Sis’ advice and just be in the funk for a bit. As someone who experienced the loss of a Sibling, addressing being in a funk and just being in it for a while is very therapeutic. Stay Blessed!

  21. Heike Lorenz says:

    Dearest Arielle

    I so understand where you’re at and it’s important you made this statement to create the space you need. Sitting shiva, the time it creates to mourn deeply, while being taken care of by others, and other traditions in our and other cultures, they got lost over time, and we need to find, rediscover or reconnect with the wisdom and guidance they provided.

    I watched the movie “Griefwalker” a while ago and was deeply touched by Stephen Jenkinson and his work.

    And no, this isn’t another “what grieving is about” and how it’s natural and takes time and all this.

    “Grief. It’s how you love all those things in life that end” (Stephen Jenkinson).

    http://orphanwisdom.com/

    Sending you much love, and holding you in my heart, dear Arielle,
    Heike

  22. sharron john says:

    Dear Arielle
    Just do your thing .What is right for you is right for you .It will hit you when your soul is able to integrate the loss -its sensible like that .Trust it

  23. sharron john says:

    Ps -it will flow when your ready it doesnt have to be difficult just walk with it .Follow your heart with people .

  24. Máire says:

    Thank you Arielle for sharing your deep and honest truth. Your integrity shines brightly and has spurred me into wanting to respond in some way. Please excuse my flimsy words, when the response from me is really from the heart.
    In love
    Máire

  25. Jane Summers says:

    Dear Arielle,
    I have just read your post regarding the words of asking how one ‘is’.
    Every kindest, gentlest, blessing to you, with all you mention.
    I have just read the book ‘The Reconnection’ by Eric Pearl, & possibly you have read this already, but if not, please do read this, quite soon, if possible. The message he relays is that to create ‘healing’- for oneself, or towards others, (in any capacity) one is now advised to ‘receive rather than send’ (ie, ‘energies’ of connection with the Universe…& the book explains this far better than I can in précis here). On reading your posting, I have just had to write to tell you of this message, in case, by chance Eric Pearles message/book now may be of help in some way. Aside from the above, I would also whole heartedly additionally recommend ‘Matrix Energetics’ as a conscious technology which may well be of assistance with the experiences your blog describes. It is heart based, gentle & truly magical. With love & the most sincere good thoughts to you Arielle.
    Jane Summers (U.K)

  26. Arielle:

    You shared from your heart the raw and real feelings that can literally change in a moment. Some days ARE easier than others. Some are unbearably hard and nothing may satisfy you more that hiding under the covers. There were days (after my husband and both parents died) when what comforted me most was the silent presence of friends, who didn’t need to say or do anything. There are so many who are willing to love you through this and there is no ‘there’ to get to. Having been a bereavement counselor for many years, the word ‘closure’ rattles me a bit, since the door to grief, as to love is always open. Sending silent heart hugs to you, <3

  27. Martina Dragojevic says:

    Hi Arielle,

    I totally support you in this. Everyone responds differently and what you are doing is totally the right thing to do! You are trusting your gut to guide you through the motions and that is a necessary part of one’s life–trusting your intuition in deciding what is best for you at the present time.

    My love and light go out to you, sister!

    Many blessings and hopeful days ahead of you!

    XOXO

  28. Monica Ruseva says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgICk_RTDIs

    In 2002 Lara Fabian’s husband died. After his funeral however a concert awaits the singer which she doesn’t postpone. The video above is from this concert . In it she sings the song “Je t’aime” which means “I love you” in french. However, she cannot start singing – instead she starts crying. To her amazement the crowd then begins singing “We love you”. You can see on your own how the story continues in the video :)

    I just wanted to share this with you, Arielle, as a reminder that people can sometimes surprise us when we open up to them, show them how we are inside.

    I know that when the time comes you will move on but for now embrace this feeling you are feeling and just be. Until then remember that this too shall pass.

    I send you all my blessings,
    Monica

  29. Jody says:

    Dear Dear Arielle,
    a wise friend told me “Let yourself grieve at your own pace. It’s healthy and right for you.”
    I think of Debbie every day. She is, and always will be, one of my greatest teachers.
    YOU, Arielle are also a wise, beautiful spirit who has taught me SO much.
    Take care. Be gentle with yourself. Know that we are all holding a kind, loving space for you.
    There are no rules, and yes…every day is different.
    Thank you for sharing your heart.
    I send you blessings of Love and Aloha, today and every day.
    ~ Jody , aka @AlohaWabiSabi

  30. Heide says:

    Daphne Kingma wrote in her book “The Ten Things….” that we must express our grief by crying, that water running down our face is like amniotic fluid from the womb, and that crying gets us to a stage of rebirth….i really resonated with those words from her. My mom died a couple of years ago and i did not cry yet i think of her often and when i do, i get teary-eyed. She was 98, had Alzheimers and no quality of life. i thought it was a blessing and i was grateful when she finally passed peacefully….without being bed-ridden or long-time nursing care. yet now i feel like an orphan, all alone in this world…

  31. Denise says:

    Arielle,

    Thank you for sharing this how you’re feeling. Without offering any advice, I’d simply like to say you are heard, you are supported, you are loved and you are not alone, especially in your feelings about Debbie.

    Denise

  32. Kathleen says:

    Dear Arielle,
    For me… “I’m hanging in there, thanks. How are YOU?” seems to be both an honest assessment in the moment no matter what state I’m in, and yet deflect the question quickly to the other, who tends to be more than willing to tell me their state of being (which I can tune out as needed :-).).
    Your family is in my prayers.
    Kathleen

  33. Wendy Toner says:

    Dear Arielle,
    My stock answer to ‘How are You?’, is I am trying! One of my patients always replies this way and I think it gently leaves the asker guessing and perhaps also slides in a little boundary of ‘don’t ask anything more of me’. In our lives we are all trying….as you are grieving, others dealing with trauma, others on a path of spiritual growth, we try to understand, to grow, to love, to be spacious.
    May your heart be at peace,
    Wendy

  34. Constanza Bernal says:

    Dear Arielle,
    I pray so that many angels walk along with you and hold you through these difficult moments.
    Sending you peace and comfort.

  35. Colleen Kunkel Greene says:

    You put into words the deep ache I feel in my heart. My beloved sister, Bernie, passed two years ago. I too know the dilemma of how to answer “How are you?” Bernie was 10 years old when I was born 62 years ago.I was showered in her love. My rational brain knows she is not gone, simply in another dimension, that I have been and continue to be so blessed. Two months before she left Bernie prepared me. She said “You know I have had a great life.” and “You know you are loved” Looking back I know she knew her time here was coming to an end. As always she was and continues to tenderly hold my heart.

  36. Bonaventure says:

    Drenched In Holiness by Debbie Ford

    Dear God, Spirit, Divine Mother,
    On this day I ask You to grant this request ~
    May I know who I am and what I am, every moment of every day
    May I be a catalyst for light and love
    and bring inspiration to those whose eyes I meet
    May I have the strength to stand tall in the face of conflict,
    and the courage to speak my voice, even when I’m scared
    May I have the humility to follow my heart,
    and the passion to live my Soul’s desires
    May I seek to know the highest truth
    and dismiss the gravitational pull of my lower self
    May I embrace and love the totality of myself ~
    my darkness as well as my light
    May I be brave enough to hear my heart ~
    to let it soften so that I may gracefully choose faith over fear
    Today is my day to surrender anything that stands between
    the sacredness of my humanity and my divinity
    May I be drenched in my Holiness
    and engulfed by Your love
    May all else melt away
    And so it is

    – Debbie Ford