This post topic was originally going to be a singular dilemma, not two. But a recent conversation with a friend caused me to tweak that a bit and write about TWO dilemmas – one for me and one for you! How generous of me. 😊
I’ll start with my initial inspiration for this article. In an earlier post, I talked about how encouraging it was for me when people check in with me to essentially see how I am doing. And while I’m not reneging on that statement, I am finding that I’ve created a dilemma for myself.
Simply stated, I don’t know how to answer it! It depends on who is asking, how well do I know them, what communication means are they using, how much time do they have, what kind of day am I having and any number of other factors.
Now we’ve all met acquaintances “on the street” so to speak who, upon having the “how are you doing” (HAYD) question posed to them, go on and on and on with a litany of every little detail of their amazing or pitiful life! Our intention was just a friendly howdy do. (But I have to wonder if there were times when I should have stopped and listened more intently, sensing they needed to talk, but that’s not a topic for today.)
In those first couple of seconds after the question is posed to me, I make a quick determination on what an appropriate level of detail in my answer should be. If the person is truly just an acquaintance and may not even know that Dale has passed away, or we are just passing each other at church, my obvious answer is, “Good. How are you?” Nobody here really wants that long, drawn-out litany mentioned above!
On the other end of the “HAYD” spectrum are the people who ask me, “How are you doing…really!?” Then it’s clear to me that they are looking for the nitty gritty of my heart condition and what I’m currently feeling or struggling with. I feel comfortable sharing the grief and pain because I know they truly want to know the answer and apparently have time for it.
In the fuzzy middle are the situations where I struggle to know just how to answer. These are people who know of my loss and would be considered friends. But I’m not necessarily sure how much time they have, if texting limits my answer, or if they really want all the gory details. So far I’ve come up with a few semi-noncommittal statements such as, “One day at a time,” “I’m hanging in there,” “It’s still hard,” or any number of other pat statements. I’d like to say that God has hit me with His perfect, lightning bolt answer to HAYD, but alas, nothing has popped into my head. So, I’ll just have to continue muddling my way through this middle fog!
One answer I never give is, “Great!” Two reasons for that – I generally don’t feel great. And I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that you can recover from a devastating loss like this in just a few months.
Just a side note here. By God’s grace, I AM still able to find blessings in each day through people and events He places in my life. And His promises are still rock-solid to me, so there is still joy in my life. As James so clearly states, “Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2
Now onto YOUR dilemma! Boy, I’m not sure I even know how to tackle this one. The dilemma is – what SHOULD you be asking me? Is it, “How are you doing?” Maybe. Or any other number of discussion-opening statements. Again, I’d love to have a lightning-bolt answer from God to tell you how you should communicate with someone who is grieving. There are TONS of books written about that subject and I don’t claim to know much more than those authors.
So, I think the best I can do for you here is to share the questions friends have posed to me in the past 5 months that were helpful. And with the caveat that they won’t be the same for everyone. No wonder this is such a tough subject!
I’m actually fine with the HAYD question, especially with the “REALLY” attached to the end! Have also appreciated, “How is your day going?”, “How can I pray for you?”, “Let’s set a date to have lunch/dinner/movie together.” There are numerous other ways that people have blessed me during this time and I plan to share some of that in an upcoming post.
More important than the words you or I use, is the heart from which they come. When a friend is clearly wanting to know how I’m doing, I sense that and it really doesn’t matter WHAT words they use!
While I really did want this post to be much instructional than it turned out, maybe the message is that there is no one right way to do this – on your end or mine. Trust your instincts or the nudging of the Holy Spirit to guide you on this. And I will strive to do the same with my answers!