I think I included this on my list for things not to say to a grieving person, but I think it's worth reiterating.
Do not, by any means, ask this question of a person newly grieving- or for that matter, a person further along in the "process."
I am at a loss for words when I am asked this question. I am beyond shitty. I am in a nightmare. I am in a state of utter disbelief and shock that my husband has apparently died, and it will take a good year, I have been told, for this to sink in.
I know it's a part of our culture and something that just comes out of our mouths naturally, especially when we're caught off guard, and run into someone who we're not that comfortable with. So, I understand and won't hold it against anyone.
But it is painful to answer. The question itself decreases the magnitude of what I'm going through and makes me feel so much more alone. If someone asks, "How are you?" they obviously have no idea- no idea at all.
But my answerlessness will be the same now, months from now, and probably a year from now. In two months, I will NOT be in a different "stage" or "place," so it will not be more appropriate then.
Honesty is best. I am in a very honest place and have always appreciated this from others. I received a wonderful message this morning admitting to multiple attempts to write me and conversations with her husband about not knowing what to write or how to write to me. That is a wonderful thing to tell me. That shows me that at least as much as is possible, this person is trying to imagine what it is like to be me right now.
What a stigma there is around grieving people- people feel uncomfortable because I am a reminder of their worst fears and pains. But no, really, I am not one of "those people." I am one of you. We are all in this together. After all, as an old pastor of ours used to say, "No one gets out of here alive."