Living With Grief

How Are You?

How are you? (urban dictionary): The lamest rhetorical question in the English language. Requires the answer of ‘Fine’ no matter how you feel 

In dealing with grief, those are three words I’ve personally come to dislike so much. When I see a solitary “how are you?” message on a Whatsapp chat, I let it linger. It’s simply because, it’s too hard to answer. The question is just too BIG.

I find that it tends to be from people who’ve not really been in touch. It’s so easy for you to ask, but what am I supposed to say? It makes me feel so accountable. Like I now owe you a whole journey or full update, just because you’ve ever so briefly decided to check in with me. It makes me angry at you for putting that vast task on me.

It might just be me, being this crazy, but here are some alternatives:

  • How are you holding up?
  • How are you doing this week?
  • How have you been doing since we last spoke?

But don’t be lazy, if you genuinely care, add a longer message. “How are you?” by itself, is rough.

The truth is, I don’t know how I am. I’m grieving. Some days are better than others, but in general, I feel too much.

This is something I wrote in September 2019, still coming to terms with my second miscarriage:

  • I feel that everyone’s pregnant
  • I feel that a part of me has died, twice
  • I feel angry
  • I feel guilty
  • I feel that I don’t want to talk to any pregnant person
  • I feel that I’ll never be able to look at another person’s baby scan without crying
  • I feel that it’s ok for you
  • I feel stupid that baby bumps and “baby on board” badges now have an effect on me
  • I feel that it won’t be ok until I’m pregnant again
  • I feel like I’m not ready to be pregnant again
  • I feel that some people are too clinical about this
  • I feel that clichés don’t help
  • I feel that you don’t get it. I know this because I didn’t used to get it
  • I feel like it’s my turn
  • I feel like I can’t forgive people for their lack of excitement the first time round
  • I feel like I’m hurting people
  • I feel like I’m hurting
  • I feel regret that I won’t have my first baby the same year as my friends
  • I feel devastated knowing I won’t have a baby this year, when I should have had two
  • I feel that logic has left me
  • I feel scared that I’m going to get some more pregnancy announcements
  • I feel that I’m so far behind
  • I feel bitter that I’m working my way through another pot of folic acid
  • I feel past it
  • I feel that it’s bizarre, because I’m ok a lot of the time. But then it gets quiet. And I hear a song or a thought in my head, or read a quote and it all unravels
  • I feel left out
  • I feel impatient at having to start again
  • I feel it’s going to happen again
  • I feel it’s not going to happen again
  • I feel that I’m losing faith
  • I feel entirely without hope
  • But I feel that there’s some light
  • I feel that there are still things to be grateful for
  • I feel that there are some silver linings

Now layer in a third baby loss. I can tell you that those last three statements no longer resonate. So put yourself in my shoes and tell me, how do you think you’d respond to a throwaway “how are you?”

By directing someone to this blog perhaps!



(2) Comments

  1. Matt Ireland says:

    A very brave decision to expose yourself in such a way. I’m not sure you realise how much these posts will reasonate with people. You’re articulation of the emotions – the pain, guilt, anger and frustration – that accompany such a series of extremely trying experiences is superb, albeit at times, heart breaking. This particular post really resonated. I think I’m guilty of doing this and it is often ‘throwaway’ so I’m sorry for falling into that trap. I suppose when I say that, what I want to say is, “if you want to talk, I’m ready to listen,” or “I’m thinking of you as you mean a lot to me.” On reflection, my “how are you,” might be defensive. What if you’re in a reflective, rather than talkative mood and I get pushed away? Will that hurt me? So actually is it a selfish, rather than selfless act, and as you say, am I trying to appease my own guilt whilst simultaneously protecting my own ego? Quite possibly. Am I also guilty of not picking up the phone to you because I think, “It’s okay, Ruth (my wife) is checking in with Anj, so I don’t need to worry,” and thus taking the easy way out and thinking about Ruth and I as a collective, rather than individuals? Yes, definitely.

    So I suppose, in a rather elongated way, what I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry. I don’t want to be a ‘seasonal’ friend because I believe that the best friends aren’t. And that’s what I view you both as, two of my very best friends, who would support me whatever the weather, and I will try harder to be, and do, the same.

  2. Nazneen says:

    I hate this so much too! I had an even worse one recently “hi – how you doing” this person had basically not been in touch, said they would come and visit and never did. It hurt so much, I just didn’t reply. I’m being kind to me, I’m being selfish and I can’t take that hurt on top of dealing with the loss of my child. Someone one said to me loss is like grieving twice, losing your loved one and losing some friends along the way too. But it’s ok, I’ve made new friends, ones who care and actually keep in touch.

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