Bipolar Disorder and Staying Well: Going to a Funeral


How about that same thought process for (of all things) funerals. I find that they really bother me. Not in the usual way that funerals do. We all grieve and are sad at someone’s passing but with BiPolar, I seem to fall further down the slope than many and it takes weeks if not months to recover. It matters not if the funeral is family/friend/whoever…..They say you are not respectful if you don’t go honor someone at their funeral (in the south anyway) How can this be handled in a good way for those of us emotional unstable at such a time as this? Thanks…I love all your materials!


Hi Debbie,

People with bipolar disorder usually feel things about double than the non bipolar population. This is why we get so overwhelmed so easily! I actually have a dear friend with bipolar I – Sherri – who just asked me the same question about funerals- she wants to attend the funeral of someone she cares about deeply. But she is too ill to fly to the funeral- it’s across the country. I told her that not going is fine- her aunt knows how much she loved her. Sherri has been a wonderful niece and friend. Funerals are about respecting the people you love, but you can do that from anywhere in the world.

When my beloved grandmother died in 1995, I was too ill to go. I often felt sad about it and cried that I was not able to be there- but I have bipolar disorder and in order to stay well, I have to be true to myself. My grandmother’s funeral was in Alabama. I understand all about the south! If you have told your family about the bipolar disorder- and explained that it’s like having pneumonia – you can them remind them that they would never ask you to come if you were ill and coughing all over the plane!

Eventually, it’s about the person who died- not the people who judge you. If you want to stay stable, it’s all about educating others. They understand eventually- you can send them to this blog! You can say- Julie can’t do it either because even though she loves and respects the person who died, she also respects herself and needs to stay well.


6 comments to Bipolar Disorder and Staying Well: Going to a Funeral

  • Sandy

    Hi Julie,

    I’m bipolar 2 and always read your blog..thanks for all you do.

    I would just like to give my input on funerals. I understand if your very sick, it’s far away or it makes you very ill that you would not go. However, NOBODY likes funerals, so I would hope people wouldn’t use it as an excuse.

    I lost my Dad when I was 32 and my Mom 10 months later. It was a VERY hard time for me…also an only child. I can’t tell you how much every person helped me through!!!!!!

    After all of that, I read the obits everyday and make it to EVERY wake or funeral of good friends or family (not if I am sick).

    I know everyone is different, but if you can go PLEASE do!


    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks so much for your input. I love it that blogs let people hear all sides of the story. It’s good to hear your side- I always have to remember that my opinion is only one and the more opinions a person has to choose from- the better! Julie

  • Stu

    Julie: you often write about getting help from family and friends with your bipolar. I don’t ask for help well to begin with and I certainly don’t ask outside a fairly small circle of intimates. I have a very sensitive and confidential business and am concerned if I go too public with my illness it could hurt that. I don’t think the mental health problem stigma is just in my head. I have thought it may be something like a gay person “coming out” if I were to openly share my situation. With the internet and so many ways that information is passed these days, I’ve elected to stay mum with many of my relationships.
    I think it is different for you as you’ve elected to confront bipolar publicly and in fact, make a living from that confrontation and what flows from it.

    What do you advise someone like me in revealing this information (for instance, I will go to NAMI group therapy sessions but don’t do their yearly walk to raise awareness)?

    Hi Stu,

    I reallly like your question as it addresses so many of the issues we face when it comes time to talk about bipolar disorder. I will answer this soon and put it on the blog or in a newsletter. Julie

  • Aaron

    Hi julie, I absolutely adore your stuff and I was wondering. Since I’m new to this whole blog thing I dont know if this is the right kind of question to be asking but here goes
    I am on medication for my bipolar and its great it helps me feel alot better than the usual. But there is one constant and I don’t know if you can help me with this question or not but here goes. I have this god aweful tendency to just… lash out at people? for example a friend of mine dosent talk to me for one day and the whole day for some reason I’m sitting there thinking about her, dwelling on the fact that she wont talk to me, Shes my best friend but I have freaked out on her a couple of times and when I feel low I get so very close to doing it again. I’m just wondering if there is any strategies for coping with these terrible terrible outbursts before I push her any more away from me. I’ve tried explaining that I can’t always help the outbursts, But shes… Too much of a happy person she can’t understand why somebody can feel this way. However she loves me and is still here and supportive of me. Do you think there is anything I can say to change the perception or just let it be until she DOES understand? All I know is that shes a very very special person to me and hate hurting her.

  • About funerals, I hate them. I haven’t been to many but I don’t have many “stable” times and the ones I’ve been to have usually fallen during periods of my depression – not usually related to the death. They are triggering and sometimes traumatic. They either remind me of my dad’s funeral or make me think about what my funeral might be like if I killed myself. They are both not things I want or need to be thinking of.

    So when a close family friend died of cancer last fall my mom naturally expected me to go to the funeral. But I didn’t. I had recently gotten out of the hospital for my bipolar and I just couldn’t take it. I knew that and I wasn’t about to go anyway and freak out there in front of a bunch of people I haven’t seen in ages at an event that has nothing to do with me. You know? So I chose not to go and to take care of me. She was angry, so angry, but I didn’t let it phase me. I did feel guilty but not for very long. A few months ago I saw the lady’s daughter, who I grew up with, and husband and apologized for not having been there. They said not to worry about it and that it was fine. All the hullabaloo about me needing to go to show my support was just that, hullabaloo. They already knew they had my love and support, whether I was there in person or not.

  • Katina Richardson

    I am no bi-polar one. My grandmother past away yesterday at 2 am. The family that want nothing to do with me are calling me and telling me about her death. I understand how they feel and I sent a nice message back to them. I am sure my mother and my sister (they are grieving hard) desperately want me to go but I don’t want to. The stress and the hurt is just too great for me to deal with. My family don’t believe in mental illness and that is fine. But my thought is, if you don’t believe just leave me alone and let me deal with this the best way I know how. Everybody want me to be there for them but no one willing to be there for me. I don’t want to make a fool of myself so I rather just be in the house grieving in my own way. They may think that is selfish but I have to do what is best for me

  • Mondo

    I’m bipolar one and recently experienced a manic attack at my mother’s funeral. No, the funeral was not a particularly sad affair. She lived quite happily into her 90’s and then went down fairly quickly. I had to give a short speech at graveside. Suddenly I noticed that I was beginning to experience the colorful, sparkling, powerful, hyper-auditory prodrome of a major manic attack. It was one of those “feet don’t leave me now” moments. I tried to force myself down the pinnacle I was unwittingly climbing. It worked. How did I do it? I don’t know and I likely couldn’t do it again but I think, because of the extremely colorful nature of this kind of attack, I recognized it very early and was able, mentally, to cut ‘it’ off at the pass. Surrounded by family and friends–it could have wrecked my own mother’s funeral. I choked it down.

    Ordinarily, when I begin to experience the prodrome, the consequences [at the time, at least] don’t seem nearly so negative. The rush is so amazing is that, if it could be replicated by a mind-altering drug, I suspect everyone would become addicted. In any event, when it happens I make little mental or physiologic effort to hold it down. For awhile, the world is pure glittering color where all my senses are enhanced–Magic. When it’s over, and see the damage I’ve sometimes done, I very much regret it–until the next time.

    By the way, most of my manic and hypomanic attacks do NOT have a colorful prodrome nor a ‘colorful’ presentation. It simply comes. The same is true of depression. This is usually preceded by a negative event or, perhaps more likely, I’m already embedded in depression and my depression finds something to obsess on.