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Answering a Tough Question

People are always asking me "How are you doing?" I don't want to get into it, so what should I say?

By Doreen S. Marshall, Ph.D., Psychologist and Survivor

"I think it's particularly important to feel that you can talk about the suicide when you need to, but that you don't always have to talk about it either. It is very important to have times when you can talk about it (such as in a support group, with a close friend or with a therapist) and times when you have a break from talking about the suicide. People who ask are often well-meaning, but do not always have a good sense of what you need in that moment.

"I found that it was easier to try to stay away from saying, 'Fine,' in response to, 'How are you doing?' People usually didn't believe it and it sometimes prompted more probing or a reluctance to ask later.

I found it more helpful to try to respond with something like, 'Today, it's just too painful to talk about,' on days when I didn't want to talk about it. Other days I would say something like, 'I'm managing ok, taking it a day at a time' or 'I'm having a hard day, but doing the best I can.'

I found that those kinds of statements helped those around me to understand that grieving a suicide is a process, and that no one day determines how you will feel the rest of your life about this loss. It also helped me to remember that if I was honest about my feelings, people would have a better sense of how to support me in my grief than if I always tried to hide those feelings.


04/06/2015 at 8:31 PM
I lost my 23 year old son, my only child to suicide in June 2014. I find that I'm reluctant to meet new people because I'm afraid of the question, "Do you have any children?" It seems wrong to say, "No, I don't." But having to explain the situation to total strangers is incredibly painful and awkward.
01/02/2015 at 3:40 PM
People ask you how you are but they don't really care. It is just polite. They wish I would disappear and I feel sorry for their awkwardness, so I smile and say, "Fine Thank You, how are you?" But I don't really care how they are either, we are just acknowledging one another. I didn't ever want to know how this felt and I wish I didn't. Nobody could ever understand how incredible my daughter was or our special relationship or the depths of pain and hopelessness knowing the worst thing in the world happened.
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