A New Answer to the Grief Question, "How Are You?"

"How are you?" became a dreaded question. Four family members, my daughter, father-in-law, brother, and former son-in-law, died in 2007. My daughter and former son-in-law died from the injuries they received in separate car crashes. Family members and friends couldn't believe the story and I couldn't either. Suddenly, our twin grandchildren were orphans and my husband and I were GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren.

Recovering from multiple losses takes longer than recovering from one. As I discovered, your emotions bounce around a lot and you may go backwards on the recovery path. When I looked for information about multiple losses on the Internet, I found a few articles, but they weren't enough. The message: Recovering from multiple losses was up to me.

As the story of our losses spread, people expressed condolences and asked the dreaded question. But I didn't know how I was. All I knew was that I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Most of the people who asked how I was expected my answer to be, "Fine." That's the common answer in our society. But I wasn't fine, I was almost prostrate with grief. In self-defense, I came up with some answers to the question, "How are you?"

Early in the journey I said I was "fine" to end conversations. Months passed, and my next answer was "okay." I liked this answer because it fit all conversations and all people. "Okay" is also a common answer in our society. "Getting long" was my third answer and I used it in the middle stage of grief. This answer implied progress and that seemed to satisfy people. A year and a half later, I found the courage to say I was "coping." I used this answer with close friends only.

Well into my grief journey I was able to say "I'm good." Now this answer has changed. Four years have passed since my daughter died. During this time I continued to do my grief work, wrote five books about recovering from loss and grief, saw my twin grandchildren graduate from high school with honors, and receive college scholarships. My husband and I gently guided our grandchildren through the college search and they are now sophomores in college.

I'm so proud of my grandchildren I could shout their praises from the roof tops. But the biggest miracle of my life is that I am more than a survivor, I am happy. I have created a new life and, though it isn't the one I anticipated, it is rewarding. Evidently my new-found happiness shows on my face. When I met a friend in the grocery store she stopped and declared, "You look happy." How did I find happiness again?

Every day, I looked for something to be happy about, such as seeing a pair of cardinals. I gave myself permission to laugh. Meditation helped me to re-discover the strength within me. If a negative thought came to mind, I balanced it with a positive one. Giving to others has helped me immensely. Of all these things, writing has helped me most and the books I write are actually my journals. When people ask how I am (and I appreciate their concern) I can honestly answer, "I am happy."

I hope this miracle comes to you.

Copyright 2011 by Harriet Hodgson


Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 35+ years. Her 26th book, "Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief," written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon. Centering Corporation has published several of her books, including "Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life," "Writing to Recover Journal," "The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul" and "Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss."

Hodgson has two other new books, "101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey" and "Real Meals on 18 Wheels: A Guide for Healthy Living on the Highway," Kathryn Clements, RD, co-author. Please visit Hodgson's website and learn more about this busy grandmother.

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