How to Cope When Everything Falls Apart

I made it to a great place a couple of weeks ago. You know that feeling, when your health is on track, and you know how you want to be spending your days, and even though you're not where you want to be you feel springy, poised, ready to launch yourself into Phase 2? That's where I was, for the first time in a long time, and it felt incredible.

I barely had time to take a baby step in that direction when the phone rang at 11 PM. And very little good news comes from a late night phone call.

Within a couple of days, Mum and I were on a plane to Ontario for my grandad's funeral, a man who I was never going to be ready to lose. Everything else slammed to a halt as I joined with the rest of my family to celebrate his life and ease the transition to a new chapter for us all.

I'll be talking more in days to come about what I learned from Grandad about authenticity and being true to yourself, but for now I want to touch on something else I think he'd approve of: how to cope when you have to drop everything, and how to prime yourself for relaunch.

Accept the chaos

One thing we can be sure of in life is that it will throw us curveballs. No matter how well we prepare, something can always throw us off track. It's nervewracking, yes; frustrating, too. It's hard not to have a moment of, "Are you kidding me?" When all's said and done, all we can change is how we react to it. We can accept our frustration and we can also accept that this is life, and sometimes life happens and we have to prioritize something else.

Make order from chaos whenever you can

Before we left for Ontario, I made my bed and cleaned up a bit so I wouldn't return to a mess along with a backed up to-do list. I also made a new list of everything that needed doing before we left, and what I wanted to pack, as well as sorted out a few portable snacks to take with us. We both knew, with everything else going on, there might be times where we'd forget to eat or just wouldn't want to.

Dive into what needs doing

We arrived at my grandparents' house after midnight. The next day, still jet lagged, we spent hours assembling several poster boards of photos commemorating Grandad's life. We had to keep moving. If we stopped to think too hard about what we were doing, well ... we needed to get through the day. And the next, and the next.

Visualize the "after"

Hard as it was, I did my best to stay present in the "now" while I was away. I didn't think more than a few hours ahead. While my uncle was driving us to the airport, though, I pulled out my notebook and started jotting down a to-do list of what needed to be tackled sooner rather than later. It felt refreshing, and though I was still grieving, and will be in some form or another for a long time, I needed that sense of looking forward.

Take a breather

I wasn't ready to jump straight back in to All the Things as soon as we touched down on Vancouver Island. I did send a few emails, read a few blogs, but I needed a day to just "be." The next morning, it was a gorgeous day. Mum and I went to one of our favourite local cafes for a few hours and settled in with tea, books and notebooks. On the way home, I got some kombucha and a few other groceries, and had a quiet evening, processing the last few days and the memories of so many years of love and laughter.

Nobody hands you a rulebook for life and says, "Here. This is how to handle things. Go for it!" Even if we examined the sum of human experience to date, we wouldn't have an answer for everything, because every situation has an individual component to it that is unique to us, to that moment, or series of moments, in time. All I know is this worked for me, this time, for this situation and set of circumstances. I'm not totally "on track" yet but I think I will be soon. I'd like to think that Grandad is peeking over my shoulder, cheering me on.