Friday, June 13, 2014


Photo courtesy of dominik99
I've never been one to assume that things are simple. Everything in our lives is potentially fraught with complexity and complexity muddles everything. Relationships are complex. Emotions are complex. It's nice when we can simplify, but right now I'm living in the land of grief which is a highly complex landscape full of pitfalls and glimpses of light and razor blades and silk ribbons.

Every time I think I have a small handle on grief, I realize I am wrong. This is without a doubt the most complex emotion I have ever experienced, the most complex state of being. It's not one thing, never the same thing moment-to-moment though parts are becoming familiar.

Because of this complexity I brace myself whenever I'm asked "How are you?" by even the most loving of questioners. I know they truly want to know, want to hear my response but there is no simple answer.

How am I?

  • I got up today. I'm not still in bed. Does that mean that I'm doing better? Does that mean I'm healing? And if I'm healing, does that mean I'm forgetting him or betraying the depth of our love?
  • I sobbed last night until I had no voice left. My throat still hurts. Does that mean I'm worse? Does it mean I experienced badly needed catharsis?
  • Today is eleven weeks since the love of my life died, 20 weeks since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Yet I'm up, moving around, might even have smiled today. Does that mean I'm callous?
  • I have maybe 40 years in front of me and I'm not really looking forward to it, don't see much happiness on my path. Does that mean I'm depressed?
I'm grieving. And grief contains such a panoply of emotions, I don't even know how to describe it. In the same moment I'm aware of both the hollowness in my gut and chest, that place where happiness used to live, and the small satisfaction of finishing some task or another. I'm aware that I could start crying at any moment because he isn't here yet I can see the utter beauty of the light-dappled leaves. I am full of creeping dread at the thought of life without him and yet I'm hoping to find some interesting work soon. And so on. It's a state of cognitive dissonance that has no relief, at least not yet.

This doesn't mean I don't want you to ask "How are you?" but it does mean there is no easy answer. It means I am unpredictable in new and unsettling ways. It means things are complex, with no simple resolution. Yes, life is complex, but not typically like this. So please be patient. It may take me a while to answer. 

(Eleven weeks. I love you. I miss you.)

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Living with chronic pain and muscular dysfuntion for the past 20 years, when I get asked 'How are you?' I leaned to rely, "I'm vertical..." or "I'm here..." for that simple response that does not down play where I am in the complexity of my life but frees me from having to try and quantify.

    1. "I'm here" works for me. As does "Well, you know..." at which point they nod vigorously. They may not know, but they are giving us both a way out of the question, which helps.

  2. yes, I do the same, I reply :im hanging in there.


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