What do you say?

Author: TAPS

(When someone asks how you are feeling)

No matter what the season, answering the question of how we are doing is just plain difficult. There is no right or wrong way to respond, but following are some ideas from TAPS survivors. Perhaps their thoughts will help you to formulate your own response when you are asked how you are doing.


From Carolyn Cagle, surviving mother of Lance Corporal John Cagle

The end of the first year of his death is closing in on me and I am feeling the old intense feelings that I felt the first month of his death. So, what do I say to people when they ask how I am doing? I tell them the truth—I am having a very hard time reconciling with our family’s loss but I am functioning positively and meeting life's expectations. I tell them I have some happy times and I have some bad times. I thank them for caring enough to ask and I ask them to pray for us. Most people can handle that answer and they know it is probably the truth. And, it isn't Pollyanna!

From Jean Uffalussy, surviving mother of Staff Sergeant Patrick Dolphin

When someone asks me how I am feeling, my response depends on who is asking. If it is a good friend and they want the truth, I would tell them I am doing as well as can be expected. Even though one year has passed, I am sick and tired of feeling like I can't control my emotions. I cry for the smallest reasons. I am sick of not being in control of my emotions, and also feel guilty and selfish whenever the emotions get the best of me. I miss my son terribly. I would have given my life for his, if it could have saved him, but I wasn't asked. If the person asking is just being polite, my response is “I am doing my best in the worst situation. That's all that can be expected. Thank you for asking.”

From Frank Casson, father of SNS 3rd Class Joseph Casson 

I wonder if the person is really interested in my feelings. Or is it a perfunctory question, like “How is the weather?” I sometimes feel okay and other times I feel terrible. I would like people to know that asking the question also requires a response. Are they ready to listen? I try not to unload a burden, but it would be nice to say how I truly feel. I want to say thank you for your concern. Then talk about what I am feeling. Maybe people who have never felt the loss as deeply as we have will understand the depth of our despair or our desire to heal. The road to recovery in my mind is the ability to get rid of the grief and express my feelings. They may be good or bad. I hope the listener is ready to really lend an ear.

From Leslie Blei, surviving mother of CTTP 3 Eugene Aaron Bonacci III 

When people ask me, I just tell them I am fine and busy with my music and family. They don't want to hear how you really are. They want to hear an answer to that question that doesn't involve them conversing about it. If you have really amazing friends then you can tell them the truth—you feel like crap and miss your loved one; your heart has a hole in it that is not repairable. Our hearts ache and it doesn't get lessened by time. It just becomes easier to move the hurt around so you can function.

From Shanette Booker, surviving spouse of SSG Andre Booker

I tell them the truth—a true friend won't mind hearing exactly how you feel—but keep it simple. Although they are our friends and want to be there for us to help us with our healing process, telling them too much detail about how we feel can make them very uncomfortable and leave them feeling even more helpless than they already do. No one likes to see their friend hurting or feeling sad, so I say tell them how you feel, but limit how much you say. Allow them to try and comfort you through their words, their actions, and in some cases just their silence as they sit there listening to you express your feelings to them.

From Pat Mena, surviving mother of Senior Airman Anthony Mena 

I tell people the truth. I tell them I wish I could say I am fine, but I know I will never feel the same again. I have good days and I have days that I miss Tony so much… And there are days when I laugh and enjoy doing things around the house or being out with a friend. Friends get tired of hearing about how much I am hurting. If someone is sarcastic to me, and tells me to move on with my life, I ask them "How would you feel if your son or daughter died?" That usually quiets them.

From Deb Bonn, surviving mother of Ensign Elizabeth Ann Bonn

Being six years out from the loss of our daughter, I hear this question a lot. We tell people we are coping. Beth was and is a big part of our lives. We wouldn't have traded a minute of those almost 24 years to have less pain. We understand that it hurts because we love. We explain to people that losing a child is like an endless hole in your heart. Nothing can fill the hole but you learn to keep living with it.

From Rebecca Pollino, surviving mother of Sergeant Griffin Prentice

Over the past four years with my son in heaven, when someone asks me how I feel I am truthful about how much I miss Griff and how life is empty and without purpose. Most days are sad days. I also tell them how I hibernate a lot and let them know they are welcome to stop by anytime. Please don't feel guilty about sorrow and missing your loved one. You are allowed to be honest about your feelings. If someone insensitive expects you to answer "Fine," then they are just that...insensitive and uncaring.

From Donn Weaver, surviving father of First Lieutenant Todd Weaver

It has been almost two years since our son was killed. In the first few months, that question was frequently asked, usually after expressions of how sorry the person was for our loss. In the next six to eight months, we found the question was either not asked or people tried to skirt the question and avoid any conversation related to our loss because it likely made them very sad or uncomfortable. During the second year that question was almost never asked, perhaps because people thought by now we had moved on. Somehow, that is the easiest thing to believe when you are not the survivor. It is not true and there have been many times we wish the question had been asked. By their caring and asking, we would then know how the people still remember and honor our son. When we are asked, we always try to give an upbeat response such as "We will always miss him, always think of him with sadness, but also pride. We hope that you will remember his life and sacrifice. Thank you for caring." In that response, we try to make it more about him than us. And in that process we almost always feel better.