My Father Died – Grief and Bipolar Disorder
My father died Sunday at 8:10 a.m.. He was 69 years old.
I have bipolar disorder and I am grieving. I started grieving the second I heard my mother’s voice on the phone. She has a death tone. I knew by her hello and her pause that this was a death notification call. We all knew it was coming.
When she told me my father had died I just said, “Okay” in a very calm tone. I can do that. I can modulate my tone of voice based on preference rather than occasion. She told me a few other things: his ashes would be shipped; there would be a memorial. And I just placidly said, “Okay.” It’s a surreal thing being told that your father is dead. It’s something you always know will happen (generally people outlive their parents) but it’s something you’re never really prepared for – even when, like my father – the parent had spent years dying (he was bipolar, an alcoholic and unmedicated).
My mother sounded destroyed on the phone. My parents had divorced many years ago but my father was still very important to her. I did not break into pieces until after she had said “Goodbye.”
Then I sobbed loudly and soaked many, many Kleenex with tears. I know this is normal. It’s normal to cry when someone dies. This is not a bipolar thing. This is a human thing. Humans grieve. Bipolars are humans. We grieve.
But how does a person with bipolar grieve and not get really, really sick with a life-threatening depression? I mean, let’s face it, I was already really depressed, and now my father is dead. What am I supposed to do with that?
And I have work to do so I purposefully dissociate. I dissociate from my body and my brain so I can get a few hours of work done. I can grieve later. There will always be more later.
And now I have no idea of what to do. What do people do when their fathers die? I know they go to funerals. But what else? I know they cry a lot, but surely that can’t be the bulk of multiple days.
And what do bipolars do when their fathers die? How does a person with bipolar react when grieving? And how will I ever stop crying without dissociating? And if I never can, will I ever really get over his death?
A Roadmap for Bipolar and Grief
I feel like I’m left without a roadmap for bipolar and grief. Bipolar I know so well I can spot it an a hundred paces but grief? Only academically. I know the stages of grief. I know I’ve seen a few of them. I know I’ll see more. But how do I move through these stages, preferably with some sort of swift efficiency. I just don’t have time for this. I have shit to do.
So where’ the roadmap for grieving? I know there isn’t one. I know that people grieve in their own times and in their own ways but that just isn’t good enough for me. That just sounds like mood episode after rapid cycling mood episode to me. That just sounds like a one-way trip to a hospital.
I’m desperate to avoid that. I am. No one wants to see that outcome. But how, exactly do I avoid it when I know I’m decompensating? This is something I just don’t know. I don’t know how dark and exaggerated it will get. And I’m scared.
Please note: I appreciate any condolences people may offer with this post but I won’t be responding to them simply due to my own mental state. Thank you for understanding.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.