No matter how honest you are I know that you have told this lie at least once in your life.
That lie is the answer to the question, “how are you?”
And that lie is: “I’m fine.”
In chapter F of my book, After the Flowers Die, I write about the notion of fake fineness.
As a bereaved mom I don’t know how many times I answered ‘I’m fine’ when someone asked me how I was after my 8 year-old son, Garrett, died. In reality, I was the furthest thing from fine.
Sometimes it is easier to let everyone believe that you are fine so we don’t want to be honest about our feelings.
Why is this?
Let’s face it we live in a society where many people post their highlight reels on Instagram and Facebook and give the appearance that everything in their lives is perfect, so we might be apprehensive to admit that sometimes things are, in fact, not actually perfect.
A few weeks after Garrett’s funeral, I ran into an acquaintance of mine on the street. He apologized for being unable to attend the funeral. He then said something very odd, “My mom told me you looked great at the funeral; I’m glad you are holding up well.” I mumbled a thank you, but once I was alone, I realized how ridiculous that statement was. What did people think? I looked fine, so I must be fine? I was attending a celebration of my eight-year-old child’s life—I was everything but fine!
Outward appearances are deceiving. So often in our society, we allow outward appearances to dictate how we choose to interact with other people.
It is easy to convince others that we are fine when, in fact, we are broken on the inside. This deception is not reserved for bereaved parents; it happens all the time.
If a teenager isn’t outwardly expressing any negative emotions, he must be fine. If the waitress is friendly, everything in her life must be fine. If the husband holds his wife’s hand in public, their marriage must be fine. If the bereaved mother looks nice at her son’s funeral, she must be fine.
Sometimes things are just not our business, but sometimes we can help people by acknowledging that everyone, at some point in time, needs some extra support or compassion because they aren’t fine.
What would happen if when someone asked me, how are you, I honestly said, "I didn’t sleep well last night and I’m feeling a little anxious about going work today." It could open the door to so many positive conversations like "hey I’ve been there too; you aren’t alone in those feelings" or "I’m sorry you are feeling that way. I can’t fix this for you. This might be something you have to work out on your own."
But opening the door to those conversations will help us feel less alone.
As human beings it is our responsibility to acknowledge our hurts and to feel all of our feelings. Putting on a mask of fake fineness does not allow for that acknowledgment.
I encourage each of you to avoid any fake fineness and I know that not everyone is interested in honest answers to how are you and that’s okay. But the more we are willing to put it out there the more comfortable people start being with our honesty, and I know I could argue that occasionally putting on a mask of fake fineness especially when we’re grieving to just try to get through each day might make a positive difference but eventually we have to acknowledge and steal our real emotions all of the real things that were dealing with and I sincerely hope that you have at least one person in your life who you’re willing to share those feelings with so you know you are not alone
Try to avoid the trap of fake fineness. I understand that sometimes it is easier to say you’re fine than to admit that you’re not. I also understand that not everyone is interested in an honest answer to the question, “How are you?” Try to find at least one person in your life who you know is interested in the truth, one person who can help you navigate your journey through fake fineness and help you reach a place where your true feelings are addressed and acknowledged.
Melanie Delorme is a bereaved mom who helps other grieving parents navigate their grief, so they feel less alone and can find joy again.
She regularly published a Monday Mourning Message on her Facebook page for bereaved parents. Find them here: https://www.facebook.com/AfterTheFlowersDie/