All it takes is the loss of a loved one to make you remember how short and precious life really is. It makes you realize what's really important in life and what isn't. On the afternoon of May 25th, I received that wake-up call when I heard the news that my grandfather died. Although his health significantly declined in the last few years, it was still somewhat sudden. You're never prepared for loss, of course.
In my 33 years, I have experienced a number of losses, but none have hit me as hard as this one. This one feels like my heart has been ripped out and pummeled. In some ways I keep forgetting that this is real and then I re-live it all over again. I know that he is gone, but for a split second I think I'm going to see him in his recliner again and hear his voice. But, I'm not. What's different now than in the past is I actually am feeling this. I was so numb and so depressed for years that I don't think I felt things as much, which is a blessing and a curse.
I understand that all of my feelings are a normal part of the grief process, but when you have bipolar disorder or any other mental illness, you need to closely monitor yourself. Although a period of depression is normal, I know my biggest challenge is to avoid slipping into a major depression and letting my anxiety spiral out of control. As I evaluate the situation, I can say that I am the most stable I have ever been, which is good. I feel that I am more capable of handling this than I would have been in the past, but I'm still a bit nervous.
At this point I feel like a vase that has been bumped -- I am wobbling on the table and I will either fall down or stand back up. I know I can stand back up if I take care of myself.
Sleep - this is critical for maintaining stability. If I don't sleep, I have no energy, which feeds the depression. My anxiety levels also increase.
Exercise - I recently began working with a personal trainer at the gym. I was feeling really good and eating better. However, I have been sabotaging myself by eating my feelings in the form of cake, cookies and ice cream. Ben and Jerry aren't going to bring back my grandpa; they are only going to make me feel worse in the long run. I need to go back to the healthy habits.
Creativity - When I feel pain, I write. That is usually when I write the most and do so in an expressive way. I also need to push myself to channel my feelings into my art. As much as I feel like the energy has been sucked from my veins, I need to push myself.
Get Out - I want to curl up and sleep on the couch, but I know I need to get out. Whether it's to a store or going for a walk, I just need to get out.
Don't Hide - When I feel bad, I withdraw. However, being around people is actually what I need to do.
I have to remind myself that my grandpa lived a full life; he lived how he wanted. I don't believe he lived with regrets. He enjoyed his hobbies and had numerous friends. Instead of being sad, I will try to follow his example. He found happiness in simple things and I think that is what is a major takeaway. What we think will make us the happiest probably isn't the answer. It's the Friday night laughs around the kitchen table that mean more than anything in the end. Live simple, do what you need to stay healthy, stay active and surround yourself with the people that mean the most.
It hurts, but it won't hurt in the same way forever. Love never dies.