How should I respond to "how was your trip?"
April 22, 2011 6:12 PM   Subscribe

How should I respond to "how was your trip?"

I took a week-long trip home to the opposite side of the country to celebrate my birthday. It was awesome, but then unexpectedly, in the last 24 hours I was home, my grandmother's health rapidly changed and she died, peacefully, at home, surrounded by the family.

I returned to my city as scheduled and many kind friends and acquaintances are asking "how was your trip?" Every way I have responded so far has felt awkward and wrong. Is there an elegant response or non-response I can use?
posted by palegirl to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It was a good trip. Thanks for asking.
posted by The World Famous at 6:16 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

"It was wonderful, thank you, but I am sorry to say that towards the latter part of the trip my grandmother unexpectedly passed away. If it's okay with you, I'm not really up to talking about it. Thank you for asking!"

I'm so sorry for your loss, PaleGirl. :(
posted by patronuscharms at 6:17 PM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Well, depending on who asks, you don't have to share the passing of your grandmother. Many people who ask this question are asking to polite after all (co-workers, your barista, etc).

If you do wish to share that detail, tell them simply what you've written here: You had a nice time celebrating your birthday, but unfortunately your grandmother died. She passed peacefully and you were glad to spend time with her before she went.

I think that should do.
posted by too bad you're not me at 6:17 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

"It's nice to be home." Then change the subject.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:23 PM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Depends on how close you are to the asker.

Good, thanks!-- It had its ups and downs--my grandma died!
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:25 PM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

(I spent a lot of time trying to get my columns lined up and previewing, but to no avail.)
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:25 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

"It was quite a trip. I'm so glad I went."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:28 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

"It was really worthwhile, and great to be around my family." True, but not "yay it was so fun!!"
posted by MadamM at 6:34 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

"It was good. Thanks." I say this to people I don't feel like discussing my personal life with, whether I actually had a good trip or a terrible trip. They never ask for more details beyond that. Realize most people are just asking because they think it's polite to ask when someone gets back from a trip. Anyone you actually want to talk to about it can get the real details.
posted by wondermouse at 7:53 PM on April 22, 2011

If you are talking with friends it's absurd that you wouldn't mention your grandmother's death. No need to worry about being elegant about it.
posted by missmerrymack at 8:01 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

"It was wonderful, thank you, but I am sorry to say that towards the latter part of the trip my grandmother unexpectedly passed away. If it's okay with you, I'm not really up to talking about it. Thank you for asking!"

I wouldn't suggest this be used with casual acquaintances or work-friends you don't socialize much with. For them, a simple "it was very good, thanks for asking" would do...otherwise you just make them feel bad for asking and that's likely not what you want to do.

For close friends, you tell them the truth, forget elegance...there's little elegance in an unexpected death, it's sad. As Dionne Warwick and Friends sang in the 80s, "That's what friends are for".

My condolences on your loss.
posted by inturnaround at 8:10 PM on April 22, 2011

That happened to me recently. Conversations afterwards went pretty much like this, and it was fine:

"Hey, how was your trip?!"
"Well, my granddad died, so it ended up being a trip to a funeral, so that pretty much sucked."
"Oh no, I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. He was 90 and ill, and we weren't extremely close. But still, not the best holiday ever."
"Yeah. Damn."
posted by lollusc at 8:59 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Part of my issue is that when I am out of sorts I am easy to read; I have no poker face. And there's some other stuff going on in my life that I don't want people to think I am freaking out about out of proportion. So I almost feel like I have to say "I'm not upset about that stuff, there's unrelated sadness in my family life right now."
posted by palegirl at 9:38 PM on April 22, 2011

I've found that there's no elegant way of telling someone that someone close to me has died. I've also found that it doesn't matter.

(In the past I've googled for answers looking for best ways to respond to someone telling me someone close to them has died. I doubt I'm the only one. Everyone you tell will only be wanting to make you feel better, or if not better exactly, at least no worse.)

As far as not telling them goes, you're allowed to tell people as much as you want to tell them and you are also allowed to choose when to tell them. Nobody is going to mind if you tell them a week from now. Nobody is going to mind if you dodge the opening gambit of "how was your trip?" and then 10 minutes later in the middle of them telling you an anecdote, you interrupt them in an inelegant and awkward way and suddenly make an announcement. And you are 100% allowed to say, in the most awkward way imaginable, "I'm not upset about that stuff. There's something else going on."

People will know you're upset. But they will all respect your wishes to talk about it at your own pace. Some of them will automatically give you space but some will need you to say to them "I don't want to/can't talk about it". It might seem awkward to say, but I found that the more I told people what I needed (I can't talk about this, I want to talk about other things, I need you to distract me, I need company), the easier it got. And every time I did communicate, even though the moment of saying it was awkward for me, it was always much, much better once I said it.

I'm really sorry for your loss. It sounds both sudden and so, so recent.
posted by coffeepot at 10:02 PM on April 22, 2011

Well, depending on who asks

This was my first thought too. If it's someone you're not particularly close with, just be really general about the positive aspects of the trip, maybe mention a specific anecdote. Stuff you'd normally discuss if it weren't for the unfortunate loss.

Depending on the situation (in-person, text, etc), I'm not sure a curt response followed by a change of subject would be best. The other person may feel you're being dismissive and think "Wha? I wanted to hear more about the trip."

If it's someone you're comfortable enough to discuss it with in any other circumstance, then by all means. And if in the spur of the moment you don't feel like bringing it up, maybe you will later, and no one would fault you for not telling them earlier.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:47 AM on April 23, 2011

When people ask me these sorts of questions with complex good-and-bad answers, I try to avoid negating the good. My answer to you would be to frame the bad parts positively: "It was wonderful to spend time with my grandmother before she passed, and my birthday was enjoyable too." Elaborate as desired.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:22 AM on April 23, 2011

"The trip was fine, but then it's back to real life. You know how it is." then change the subject if it's not a close acquaintance, or explain your loss if it's someone close enough to support you.
posted by anildash at 7:43 AM on April 23, 2011

I was thinking about my earlier response on my way home from work, and I think I completely failed to answer your actual question. (Uh, sorry about getting my own issues all over your question!)

"How was your trip?" is the sort of question to start a conversation. They're probably more interested in having a conversation with you than actually hearing about the trip. If you can move the topic to something else they're interested in, they probably won't even notice you haven't answered.

Answer their question with a question. Not in a sarcastic, shutting them down way. But in a genuine and interested way.

Them: "How are you?"
You: "How are you?"


Them: "How was the trip?"
You: "How was [city you've now returned to]?" / "What did I miss?" / "Anything new with you?"

And if it's a colleague:

Them: "How was the trip?"
You: "How was [workplace]? How did [task] go?"

If there is something specific going on in their life, ask them about that.

Them: "How was the trip?"
You: "Did you hear about your dog's blood results yet?"

Alternatively, you can tell them something specific about the trip.

Them: "How was the trip?"
You: *talk about how busy the airport was*

Or, just answer with a non sequitor.

Them: "How was the trip?"
You: "I saw someone almost get hit by a bus on the way to work this morning."

(But I find if I'm upset, the easiest way to hide it is to hear about other people's lives than talk about my own.)
posted by coffeepot at 10:52 AM on April 23, 2011

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