Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Loaded Questions

Shortly after KK died, I told Daryl, our associate pastor, that there are two questions people should not be allowed to ask someone who is grieving: "How are you?" and "What do you need?"

How are you?
I've always hated this question for two reasons:

  • We (I mean me) ask it so flippantly. One Sunday when I was in my early twenties, I remember my pastor asked me if I really wanted to know how he was when I asked him how he was. It really made me think.
  • We feel compelled to ask "How are you?" in return. Over the years, I have caught myself replying "I'm well. How are you?" then walking off without waiting for the other person's answer. Obviously, I didn't want to know how they were...and that is so not okay.

Right now, I don't know how to answer people when they ask me how I am. When I'm asked in real life or on the phone, I almost always tear up and have a hard time speaking. When I'm asked via text, I tear up and put the phone down. Most times I don't have the energy to "go there". Sometimes I wonder if the person really wants to know or if he/she just wants me to say that I'm doing well. If you really want to know, be forewarned that the answer may be messy. I have my good days and my bad days...or, more accurately, I have my good moments and my bad moments within each day.

What do you need?
Oh, man...I really don't know how to answer this question. The only thing that I need is my girl back. Other than that, I often have no idea what I need or what you can do to help. And when I do know, I don't want to impose upon you. You have a life. You have a family. You don't need me to add to your plate.

So, what's a person to say or do?
Rather than asking these questions, I would suggest the following:

  • Let the person grieving know that you are praying for them and thinking about them. 
  • Make it known that you don't expect a reply or a call or a thank you.
  • Don't put the responsibility on the grieving person to contact you. 
  • Try to think of what the other person wants, not what you would want (i.e. you may want a hug, but hugs may be overwhelming to others me).
  • Offer to do something specific (go out to eat, make a meal, etc.), but be okay with a "No, thank you" or a last-minute cancellation (the person may be doing well when making plans on Monday, but who knows what Tuesday will bring...grieving is exhausting).  
  • If you really want to know how the person is doing, ask specific questions and be prepared to listen. Even then, consider the setting before you ask. The answer could be messy and the grieving person may not want to fall apart in front of a room full of people.
  • Finally, don't text or call early in the morning or late at night even if you know the person is a morning person or night owl. I'll say it again, grieving is exhausting. Sleep is a precious thing and sometimes it doesn't come easily.
I feel the need to mention a couple more things:

  • It is okay to talk about your life. My loss and grief do not minimize what you are going through. I need to get out of my own head and think about others.
  • It is okay to talk about KK...just remember to consider the setting and be okay with a "not right now" kind of response. I love her and miss her terribly. I want to know that she had an impact on your life, that you think about her, and that you miss her too.

3 comments:

Heidi Peterson said...

Thank you, Tanya, for putting into words what many of us don't intuitively understand, not having walked in your shoes. Continuing to pray for you every day. Never doubt the impact that you and KK have had on us, in the past 2 years especially -- you have allowed God to work through you in the midst of the toughest trials and taught us about trusting Him in the shadow lands. I know that Bethany is much less afraid of illness and death after watching the way KK went through it.

Vickie Hampton said...

Love you

Brooke Stillwell said...

Yes. A thousand times yes!