The last week has been pretty rough for me following the passing of my grandmother. I was pretty close to her from my earliest years, but over the last few months, we hadn’t spoken as much as we normally had. I was involved with my own children and she had not called as often as she used to, which I didn’t think much about at the time, but now I realize was just another sign of her Alzheimer’s growing slowly worse.
When she passed away, the initial shock was difficult, but it was actually much harder after the funeral, when I tried to get back into my normal routine. To put it simply, I didn’t want to write. I felt down. I kept thinking about Grandma – and also about how my mother was dealing with things. Memories kept popping into my head. The last thing I wanted to do was to write or do research. I mostly just wanted to hide under a blanket somewhere.
Then I realized something. If Grandma saw me sitting around feeling that sorry for myself, she would let into me like no one’s business. She constantly expected great things from me, more than other people, and she told me why once – because she knew that I was capable of it.
So I spent some time putting myself in a better psychological place – and it really helped. Here are some of the things that really worked.
Let it out The quicker you let it all uncork, the better off you’ll be. I spent some time thinking about the happiest memories I had with Grandma and, before long, the tears came, hot and hard. I cried for a bit, then I felt much better about things.
Exercise I went on a three mile walk, then I did a little bit of interval training (basically, I ran as fast as I could for a block, then stopped until I caught my breath, then did it again, repeating several times). Endorphins do wonders for lifting your mood and making you feel better, even if it’s just a nice walk.
The outdoors After my walk, I sat outside in the grass for a bit. It was pretty cold (winter has been trying to fight back against spring here in Iowa over the last few days), but the fresh air, the sunshine on my skin, and the sound of birds in the trees brought me a steady and happy inner peace. I wound up tinkering around in the garden for a bit, enjoying the outdoors and being refreshed by the sweet spring air.
Simple meditation A period of simple meditation can help clear any troubled mind. Here’s a very basic one that works well for me. I get in a comfortable chair with my feet up. I close my eyes, then I focus on nothing but breathing. I breathe in for a four count, then breathe out for a four count. Once that becomes easy and natural, I focus on each part of my body, starting at my toes. I try to focus on making them go completely still. I move up my body, until I’m to my head, and I’m usually pretty close to sleep (but not quite). Then I go in reverse, back down my body, imagining those pieces coming back to life. It takes about twenty minutes and always makes me feel relaxed and more at peace with the world.
YouTube I have a big collection of YouTube bookmarks that simply lift my mood. They usually take me back to moments in my life that really made me happy, and each one usually gives me goose bumps. Here are a few of them.
Conversation I’ve talked to countless friends and family members over the last few days. Each conversation has helped. A simple phone call does the trick … and a good friend always listens and has something helpful to say.
Children I’ve spent a ton of time playing with my children. A child at play subtly convinces you to let go of the concerns in your life and simply revel in what’s happening at the moment. Rolling around on the floor with my daughter, playing Memory with my son, and having a dance party in the basement with them helped cure a lot of what I was feeling.
Love Just now, as I was writing this, my wife came into the office, put her arms around me, and gave me a big hug. Her constant, unyielding love helps with moments like this. She’s a constant source of support and conversation, and when I’m facing a difficult moment like this, she’s there for me in every way.