Apr 7, 2008
How To Help Your Grieving Friend, Part 7
What do you say when someone asks you “How are you doing?” I usually give the knee-jerk, no-brain response, “Good,” or “Okay.” If you’re grieving, it’s a strange question: are they just using it as a greeting where they expect me to say “fine,” or are they really trying to get at how I’m feeling? Both are okay. It’s just hard sometimes to know which one it is.
You can make it clear by asking specific questions when you talk to your grieving friend. This is especially helpful because, remember, she’s a scatterbrain.
I’ve been helped by friends who ask me well thought-out questions. When I sit down with them, I know that I won’t have to synthesize something out of the mush that is my brain to answer that wide-open “How are you doing?” question.
They’re specific. They ask about my last visit to the cemetery. They ask if Felicity had a lot of hair. They say what they imagine I’m feeling so I can say, “No, it’s more like…” or “Yeah, it’s kind of like that.”
This kind of conversation is relieving to me. Not only does it take a lot of the pressure off, it helps me know that they really think about me and they’re trying to imagine themselves in my shoes. They’re not afraid to take conversational risks, put thoughts out there, and steer the conversation.
“How are you doing?” has it’s place, but the most meaningful interactions for me have been the ones where I haven’t had to come up with answers from scratch. It’s a relief when someone else brings the energy to the conversation by guiding it with perceptive and specific questions.
(Read other posts in this series.)