I was 59 years old when my son, afflicted with bipolar disease, took his own life. Following an aftermath filled with guilt and grief, I made the decision to come out of that experience alive, whole, and productive. No, I didn’t get a divorce, I didn’t have a breakdown, I didn’t have an affair with a beautiful younger man, and I didn’t go into years of therapy. Instead I picked myself up and relearned how to live my life again.
First, I stopped working from home in my sweats or PJs as a grant writer and capital-campaign manager for non-profits. Instead, I went back to the job I had retired from several years earlier – as a proposal manager for a large aerospace company. This job provided the routine and socialization I needed – getting up at the same time every morning, dragging myself to the gym first thing, dressing in business attire, putting on make-up and doing my hair, and interacting with groups of people on the job every day.
The next thing I did was hone my creative-writing skills. I went to classes and workshops, got into the journaling habit, organized my notes, and created a memoir about surviving this experience, and I began writing poetry to keep my son’s memory alive. Through this process I found that writing became my therapy and a way of healing – plus I got a boost with every publishing success.
Now, 11 years later, I’m still working full time with ever increasing leadership and mentoring roles. However, I’m now leaning toward another retirement. My husband and I want to travel, and I want more time to write. If I don’t write every day I get itchy. I’ve integrated it into my life. In fact, writing saved my life.