Saturday, October 8, 2016

What Does "How Are You?" Mean?

My husband has been dead now for over seven years.  That seems ridiculous to me.  He is still so present in my life.  I just e-mailed someone whose son died and I was talking about a movie and the e-mail came back around to how sorry I was that he will never have grandchildren and how much I miss my husband.  I may not always talk about it but in the center of my heart it is as if everything leads back to the fact that my husband is dead.

When people ask me how I am - I say, "The same."  They tell me I am different - that I am more alive, that I do so many things.  This is true.  My husband used to say, "We only have moments."  I have over the years found ways to have more productive moments - more happy moments.  Sometimes people say they have no joy any more.  I have redefined joy.  It is not any where near a permanent thing for me but it would be wrong to say I don't have joyous moments.  Some of them in the present, some of them in memory.  Sometimes I even feel a little lightness like a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

Grief for me is living a complex life.  I have learned to let - most days - my husband's life mean more to me than his death.  I take his hand (such as it is) and let him lead me.  I am proud of my Facebook page ( which has over a million likes and provides support to people all over the world.  I'm not someone who follow through all the time but in over three years I have only missed one day and it was because I could not get internet in a hotel in of all places, Los Angeles.  A woman in Uganda posted a picture of her young child who has died and told me that her mother doesn't speak English but she shows her the pictures and tells her what I say.  I find that unbelievable - and yet I know many people who have found either small or large ways to create something that gives meaning to their lives because they want their loved one/s to be proud of them and to be remembered.  I purposely schedule many things to do each month.  I may not always want to do them - but usually when I go I have a good time.  I am grateful for the friends I have made over the last seven years.  Many of them new as old ones walked away - but also some of them old.

At the same time I am not "better".  I have not "healed".  I don't want to be fixed.  I miss my husband because I love him and I believe he stills love me.  I don't believe I have to let go to lead a full life.  I think of an aunt of mine who was alone her entire life.  She never knew the kind of love I was lucky to find.  I get angry - even at him - for being alone.  I wanted us to be alive together.  This insane presidential election we are having in the United States - how he would have loved to discuss it with me.  So many times something happens and I run down the list of people I could call and I don't call anyone because my husband is the only person I want to talk to.

Some people think there are positive and negative emotions.  I don't.  I am happy, sad, angry, confused, lost, found, joyous, despairing and many more things all at the same time.  It's more important to me to be who I really am than to pretend things I don't feel.  If I get stuck in one emotion I try to be present to what else is happening.  I give myself time to feel this daily exhausting pain of loss and time to find things that give me contentment.  I couldn't do that in the raw chaotic first months of grief.

How am I?  Layered.  No one knows how dark the dark is.  They hear my laughter and think all is healed.  Sometimes I remind them.  They ask, "How are you?" and I say, "Great - but of course my husband is still dead."  I'd rather folks acknowledge the pain and then that frees me up to have a better time.  If you only see my joy and my accomplishments and do not see my pain and struggles then you do not know me.  That is what I know about other grieving people - to mention the name of the people they love who have died.  To talk about them.  To give them the freedom to feel what they are feeling without somehow being judged.

One woman said that her grandmother had a child who died and she grieved for her daughter for 74 years.  There is no time limit on grief but there is no limit on filling the empty dark void of grief with color and happy moments - when you can.  When you are ready.

I'm just a normal person.  This blog has been around for a while and I decided to post again partly because Google was impossible and my domain name changed from to  But the other more important reason is to say I'm still here.  I wish I could be with my husband but to me being here means I have to keep figuring out how to make being here mean something.  I hope to be reunited with my husband some day.  He called me Panache.  I want him to say when he sees me again - "Wow!!  You fell down a lot but you kept getting up and doing things.  I'm so proud of you."  It helps me to remember that what seems like time crawling slowly by in an unendurable way is only a blink of an eye in terms of eternity.

How am I?  Might as well ask me the meaning of life.  I'll tell you - but it will just be words and words sometimes don't say very much at all.  xo


  1. Wow. I lost my wife last June. I thought I was going pretty good but reading your blog makes me realize that it is a much longer proccess. Does it make it easier when you consider a life time of illness and the final diagnosis that was a death sentence. The pain and suffering ended much quicker than expected. It ended up being a "blessing"? I am not sure where I stand. I went to a grief councellor and she felt I was in a good place.

  2. I just lost my husband Bill three and a half weeks ago. The pain is unbearable at times....but to who am I saying this? Jan, I am so glad I found your book, your FB page and this site and I hope to continue to find some comfort here.

  3. Thank you so much for this blog, for the stories, for the understanding, for the awareness of what grief really is...
    How i wish i could also open up slowly..and share about how i feel without being afraid to be judge..or afraid of what will people be saying to me in my grieving... as youve been saying that grief is i wish i could understand my own grief, how i wish to speak it out but no one seems like to listen or im just afraid or just be angry of what they will be saying to me... im just happy i found this

  4. I'm glad to read something that captures how I feel. I lost my beautiful son in January this year and my grief is unpredictable, unrelenting and a constant force now and I'm certain will be forever. I only hope to move through this so that I can once again find true joy - not filtered joy. Thank you.

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