When everything’s not OK

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel. 

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

Why is it not OK for people or situations not to be completely all right? A friend of mine was sharing with me that after her partner’s mother died, people were uncomfortable with her partner’s grief. Only days after the funeral, well-wishers looked for this mourner to be “OK.” Asked many times over, “How are you?” the majority of people were physically uncomfortable with any other answer than ”OK” or “Fine, thank you.” Meanwhile, the person was not fine. He was in devastating pain.

The same goes for an illness. People want the status quo. They do not want to look deep into another’s eyes, and burrow into their soul and really know the other’s emotions. It makes humanity uncomfortable. People are ill at ease hearing about anyone’s discomfit or emotional ills. 

Yet, we want to be polite. We want to remain within the emotional boundaries of acceptability so we ask, “How are you?” Yet, do you really want to hear the honest answer? Do you want to know her heart is stricken with grief? Do you want to know he cries every time his mother’s name or memory is mentioned? Do you want to know that real pain cripples her every waking moment?

What has happened to us? Do we care? Do we want to pretend that we care but actually cannot handle the truth? (Now that was a great line from a movie.) 

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What is becoming to us as a society? I am saddened that there is a lapse in true and sincere care. Really, how are you?