by Tammy Ozolins
On April 30, 2018 my world came crashing down when my daddy died.
He had been sick and even though I knew he would not be around for Christmas this year, I did expect to go home this summer and see him, and obviously that did not happen. I will remember this day like it was yesterday. I have two other brothers that live in the same city as me and my brother called me that Sunday and told me that it was time for us to come home because he had taken a turn for the worse in the last 24 hours.
My first response to him was “NO.” He said he wished he was wrong but he did not thinks so. We drove the eight and a hour drive back home and I went right into his room to say hi. He sat up and we talked, but I was just home in March and I could not believe how much he had deteriorated.
But, I felt so blessed to be able to say goodbye to him and get to tell him I loved him. He and I had such a strong daddy-daughter bond, we had shared so many memories. You see, there is no manual for how to handle losing a parent– this is something for which you cannot prepare yourself.
People don’t know this but a dramatic event such as this can send my mental illness (bipolar) into a spiral effect. His death hit me like a ton of brick and crippled me. All I wanted to do was roll up into a ball and stay in bed. I did not want to eat, and my thoughts were not even there. It was like I had empty space in my brain.
My moods were all over the place and it was challenging.
But, this is where I have to dig deep and use my coping skills to make sure I stay in recovery. I had to cope with my moods as well as allowing myself to grieve.
My daddy was my rock and he would be one of the first people I would call when I was having a bad day and he would tell me “You can do this, keep fighting” and we would just talk and he would always make me feel a little better. When he got sick, he was diagnosed with depression and ironically the tables were turned. He would call me and when I was home visiting, and ask my how I managed to deal with this. Was it normal to feel this way etc.
It made me feel so good, because the man that I considered my role model/hero, was now looking up to me. Which is what makes his death even harder to deal with. I miss him SO much!
So, how am I coping with grief so it does not turn me into a yo-yo?
I use several coping skills.
The first one is that I just let the tears flow. I have tried to hold them in and I realized it is okay to cry. So, I let them out when I feel them coming. It feels so good to let it out.
Another one I use is music. I just get lost when I am listening to music. I listen to all genre of music- gospel, country, pop, and heck I even listen to Christmas music now. One of mine and my daddy’s songs was, “Where are you Christmas?” by Faith Hill.
He would call me and put the phone up when it was on the radio back home so I could hear it. Now, it’s one of my songs on my iPhone. I feel like I am with him when I am listening to the song.
Another coping skills I use is I had a picture frame made for his last birthday the previous year and I had a quote engraved in it. I put a picture of him and me in it. He would tell me every morning he would get up and kiss the picture. So when I was home in June, my mom told me I could take it home. And now every morning I kiss it.
I talk to him every day. Sometimes if I am struggling, I will ask him to give me the strength I need to keep going and get through that day. I sometimes just talk to him about my day. Then at times I just say hi to him and goodnight when I am going to bed. It has been very helpful. I know he can hear me.
When I was just home this summer, I would go in his room and just sit on his bed and not say a word. I would just close my eyes and think about him. I even have some of his shirts that I wear as a way to feel closer to him. I found prayer helps me as well, I am a spiritual person.
I think about all our memories and share those with my friends. Or as a family, we will share them and laugh. At first I felt guilty. Like, “Wow, I should not be laughing, I just lost my daddy.” But it helps me feel better and again I feel closer to him when I remember those memories. Again, I am so blessed I had so many years with him. I look at old photos and just smile and laugh.
One of the last coping skills I use is a support group. I help facilitate a one through NAMI. It helps so much. I can talk about my feelings without judgement and get advice from people who have already experienced this.
I know, with time, his death will be easier to deal with. But right now it hurts like hell.
People have told me the first of everything will be the hardest.
So, right now I have gotten through Father’s Day. The next big hurdle will be his birthday in August. Then the next big ones–Thanksgiving and Christmas. Using my coping skills and feeling my daddy watching over me definitely helps.
I am allowing myself to grieve. If I need to cry, shout, whatever, I allow myself to do it. I know it’s going to be a long road, and I will have ups and downs, but I want to prevent the yo-yo reaction. I want it to stay even tempered for as long as I can.
Daddy: I love you so much and I will make you proud, I will continue to fight the stigma of mental illness and keep watching over me!