The rhetorical “How are you?”

After my sister died, it seemed as though all of the people I once felt so close to suddenly became strangers. The usual conversations and interactions I used to have with close friends and family were changed drastically. I no longer felt compelled to engage in meaningless small talk. 

Aside from my disinterest in nonsense babble, it also seemed that my friends and family no longer knew how to talk to me. This mutual complication led my friends to have one script that they would rehearse to me. Today, just three months since my sister died, I still get asked the question, “How are you doing?”

As sincere and appropriate this question may seem for a person who has recently experienced a tragic and traumatic loss, it is the worst question one could ask. That is, unless the asker truly wants to receive an honest answer.

The truth is, the question is rhetorical. Through my newfound relationship with grief, I learned that us bereaved learn to provide the “expected” polite responses to questions such as, “how are you?” I found that although my friends and family thought they were sincerely inquiring on my well-being during this dark time, they were not mentally prepared for my honest reply to their simple question. 

Each time I have been asked how I am doing since losing my sister, the words that my brain plans to send to my mouth always come out with a lie…I always reply, “I’m okay.” 

If I were to give an honest answer and tell them how I actually am doing, I would most likely find myself facing a circle of friends and family who have planned an intervention due to concern.

You see, when people ask you how you are doing during times like these…times in life like mine when I am forced to wake up every day and face the reality that my nineteen year old sister was killed by a falling tree…times when you have lost the part of your soul that made you who you are…times when you begin to question the meaning of your own existence…it is times like these when being asked, “how are you”, is a rhetorical question. It is times like these when the person asking how you are only wants one answer. They don’t want you to bring them down with the morbid thoughts that now invade your mind. They don’t want you to tell them that you’re not sleeping, eating, or enjoying anything. They don’t want you to break down and allow the quivering sorrow that is trapped inside of you to be expressed.

They don’t want to feel the agony that you feel day in and day out.

The truth is, they only want to hear, “I’m fine.”

So for all of my readers, I’m fine.

I’ll continue living because I know that someday I will see my sister again.

I will continue living because I know that someday I will finally be able to wrap my arms around my sweet Kacy again.

I’ll continue living because I know that one day, whenever that might be, I will tell my sister how much I love her and how much I have missed her and I will hear her voice as she tells me it’s all okay now. 

Until that sweet, long awaited day, I’ll be fine. 

For now, life has lost its color, but I’ll continue living and I’ll be fine.

To my readers who are searching for answers, guidance, and comfort: you’ll be fine. Others will tell you to take it day by day, don’t listen to them. Just take it second by second because that is the only way to survive. Don’t try to look ahead to tomorrow and question how you will make it through because your mind will torture you with overwhelming thoughts of hopelessness. Instead, have hope that the next second of this day, this day that you are currently surviving, will be better than the last. 


In memory of the most bizarre, brilliant, and colorful humanbeing I have ever known…my sweet little sister. I miss you more than my heart can bear. I love you to infinity. 


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