Answers to the Grief Question, “How are You?”

In 2007 I lost four family members, my elder daughter, father-in-law, brother and former son-in-law.  

My daughter Helen, mother of my twin grandkids (one boy, one girl) and her former husband died from the injuries they received in separate car crashes. Helen died in November and the twins’ father died in November. His death made my twin grandchildren orphans and my husband and me their court-appointed guardians.

Suddenly, we were GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren.  

Family members and friends couldn’t believe the story. “Hollywood would reject it,” a friend commented. “Your story is unbelievable and too emotional.” Grieving for four family members and raising grandchildren has been the greatest challenge of my life.  I found some information about recovering from multiple losses on the Internet, but it wasn’t enough. Recovering from multiple losses was up to me.

I began to dread the question, “How are you?”  First of all, I wasn’t sure how I was feeling and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Most of the people who asked the question expected me to say, “Fine.” I wasn’t fine and almost prostrate with grief. In self-defense, I came up with five answers to this question.


  • I’m fine. This is the answer I used early in my grief journey. People expected this answer and I gave it to them.


  • I’m okay. I liked this answer because it fit all conversations and people. Besides, okay is a commonly used term
  • I’m getting along. This was the answer I used in the middle stage of grief. It implied progress and seemed to satisfy people.
  • I’m coping. After a year and a half I found the courage to say this. I only used the answer with close friends.
  • I’m good. Ten years have passed since my daughter died and I can truthfully say I’m good. Although I’m not living the life I thought I would be living, I have a rewarding life.



Today, my grandkids are adults and living their own lives. My granddaughter has an executive position at Salvation Army headquarters in St. Paul. She is also an independent photographer. My grandson is a freshman at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. I’m so proud of them I could shout their praises from roof tops. When I climb into bed at night, I’m grateful for my grandkids, my husband, and my loving family.

Deep in my heart, I know I made good things from grief. You may do this too. Start by trying the answers to the question, “How are you?” These answers may move you forward on the recovery path. Give to others, even though you have little to give. Live mindfully and appreciate every moment of the day. Remember that love never dies and is always with you.

Hard as it is to believe now, the day will come when you feel happy again. And you deserve it!

by Harriet Hodgson