How are you? It seems like a simple question. It’s a question everyone asks everyone, someone you haven’t seen in awhile, your friends, and people you don’t really know all that well. It is a way to make small talk, a way to start a conversation. And people answer it almost automatically with an okay, fine, or we are doing well. Not a lot of thought really goes in to the asking or answering of the question, How are you?
This question took on a whole new meaning after we lost Cohen because everyone wants to know how we are doing. Out of concern people ask this question and it is kind of hard to answer. My husband and I often joked together that we should answer them by saying, “How much time do you have,” or “Do you want the real answer or the short answer?” Don’t take me wrong we appreciate all of the concern and thought, it just became a really hard question to answer and it doesn’t really have a short answer.
I started answering with, “Okay,” followed with a shrug of my shoulders and a half smile. Kind of to say, “Yeah we are okay but we really aren’t.”
The other day I started to really think about it, how am I really. Am I really okay? Am I not okay and think I am? Do I think I am okay but I really am?
The answer I came up with is yes I am okay on the surface. I can get up in the morning and get dressed. I play with my kids and take them from one activity to another. I can go to mom’s group, smile, and talk to the other moms about their babies while they are holding their babies and not sob during the group (most of the time and I usually do after the group on the way home). I can go shopping and have girls nights out. I can have fun and smile real smiles and laugh real laughs.
I can do all of those things but if I really stop and think about what happened with Cohen and to our family, no I am not okay. Last Friday I was alone in my car (for those of you with small children I am sure you know how rare it is to ever be alone even in the bathroom). I turned on some music and let myself think. I thought about Cohen and his sweet face. I thought about the day we buried him and how the outfit he was in was the one we were supposed to bring him home in. How we let balloons go with the song, I’ll Fly Away, playing in the background. How I really will never see my son, my Cohen, run, laugh, play, or smile. That my three sons will never really get to experience being brothers, at least not here on earth.
I think about Cohen a million times a day, every single day. Sometimes I even think about some of the things that I thought about on Friday but I don’t really let myself feel those things. Why? Because I am afraid if I do I will fall into a pit and not be able to get out. I won’t be able to take care of Cole and Carson or go out and function. I let myself feel on Friday and I fell. I cried and cried and cried. I yelled at God. I screamed. I hit the steering wheel. I ranted and cried out. I felt like I was right back there on June 7, the day Cohen was born, and June 9, the day he was buried. I felt like someone had punched me in my stomach and that I wouldn’t be able to go on. I was able to get back up this time and go pick up Cole and Carson. I was even able to get a smile on my face so that the person who was watching the boys had no idea what had just gone on in the car. I am afraid if I let this happen too many times I won’t get back up. I’ll sink lower and lower. And so I don’t let myself go there often. Only on rare occasions when I am alone and feel like I can let go without scaring my kids.
There are times when I can’t stop the onslaught of emotions. A song will come on the radio or I’ll see something a the store or a baby that is about the age Cohen would be. Sometimes I can hear the same song a million times but that one day it will hit me the wrong way. One day I can be around tons of babies Cohen’s age and it will hurt but I will be ok and the next day it will not be okay and I will feel like I can’t breath and have to get away. How I am depends so much on the day, the hour, or the minute. I can be going along fine and something will hit me.
So how am I? Like I said before on the surface I am okay but underneath I am hurt and broken. I miss my son with every fiber of my being. I feel like a puzzle that has been poured out of the box and is slowly getting put back together. I am better than I was but I still have a long long long way to go.
So if you see me and ask me how I am doing I will probably say that I am doing okay with the same shrug of my shoulders and half smile. That is the easy answer, the quick answer, and in a way it is partially true. But underneath I am still hurting, still aching, and still longing for what I cannot have.