the emotional labor of grief

Of course we all know that grief is work.

But there’s a part of this work that I didn’t recognize until experiencing it myself these last few months, and that is the emotional labor required by me to answer questions like: “How are you doing?”

Slack liner, Faro los Morrillos, Puerto Rico (photo, Andy Bruner)

Slack liner, Faro los Morrillos, Puerto Rico (photo, Andy Bruner)

I know these questions are kindly meant.

I have always asked questions like this of others.

What I didn’t understand before is the difficulty involved in answering.

I don’t have a good answer for “how I am” following the death of my daughter.

I’m surviving.

I’m making meals and doing laundry and helping to love a toddler through her grief.

I’m working, and even have some projects I’m enjoying.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I had enough energy to clean out a cabinet and reorganize it.

I went to Puerto Rico with Andy and a couple of dear friends, and had a lovely weekend lying on the beach and hiking around clifftops and waterfalls.

And my daughter is still dead.

Which will never change, or be made better.

None of that is much of an answer to “How are you doing?”

So I say, “I’m okay.” And usually I shrug.

And that’s about it these days.

Here’s what I’ve started saying to other friends in hard circumstances.

Instead of, “How are you doing?” I say, “I’m thinking of you.”

Because that doesn’t require any emotional labor from them.

And it feels like one tiny splinter of grace I can release into the world.

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