How I Coped with Death. Sober.

My nana passed away last month. We knew it was coming. She’d been sick for a few years now and her health was rapidly declining. A few days before she passed, my dad called me and said “This is it. She’s probably not going to make it through the night”. She ended up making it through two more nights before peacefully passing away in her sleep on Sunday, September 11th. I got the news via text from my dad while I was at work. I took a few breaks to hide in the office to cry, but I managed to remain somewhat intact so I could finish my shift.

As soon as I got off work, I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost. Dizzy. Disoriented. I called my best friend from back home (who now lives in Denver), Keegan. Thankfully, he answered. I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth because I was crying so hard, but I word vomited the following (or something like it):

“My Nana just died and my roommate’s out of town and I’m walking around the city alone and it’s September 11th and I’m staring at One World Trade and the energy here in the New York City is just really weird and I miss my family and I don’t know what to do and I want to drink but I can’t drink because I’m fucking sober. Should I go to Texas?” He calmly talked me down and gave me the advice I needed to hear. “Go home. Relax. Think on it. Go to Texas if you feel like that’s what you need to do”.

So I did. And here’s a few other things I did to cope with death sober:

1. I Asked for What I Needed


I went home to Texas for five days. My plan was to help clean out Nana’s apartment and cope with this loss together as a family. While I was home, more family shit hit the proverbial fan and I needed to extend my trip for two more weeks. I called my boss at lululemon in NYC and asked if I could extend my trip for two more weeks and work at lululemon in The Woodlands in the meantime. She agreed. I’m grateful to have a boss that supports me and a job that allows me to work from any location. My job’s flexibility made this tough month a lot easier.

2. I Went To A Drum Circle


Some girlfriends and I went to Wild Spirit Yoga‘s Friday night drum circle to celebrate the full moon. This was my first time and it was pretty much what I expected. This powerful circle of 12 women, 1 man, 1 dancing little girl, and different types of drums created an intense, emotional experience. Before the drumming began, we were given a piece of paper and a pencil. We were encouraged to write down what comes up for us throughout the experience. I’d drum whatever rhythms my body was telling me to drum for a few minutes, then take a break and write. I ended up writing a letter to my Nana. I wrote down things I never said to her in person and what I loved about her.

3. I Maintained Weekly Therapy


I started seeing a therapist in August and it’s completely changed my life. Yes, I know how cliche that sounds but whatevs. I’m learning a lot, but one thing in particular is that I have agitated depression. I plan to go into this topic much deeper in a future blog post, but for now I’ll tell you that agitated depression is essentially staying busy AF to avoid feeling my emotional pain. My therapist and I maintained our weekly sessions through phone calls while I was in Texas. Having a non-biased perspective on what I was going through provided support and relief.

4. I Wrote About Sex


The thought of digging deep and writing about sobriety was too overwhelming. I tried a few times and I just couldn’t. It took all I had to sporadically piece together the outline for this article. Two weeks before Nana passed away, reached out to me to ask if I’d take over their sex column. They offered me two paid (!!!) pieces per week. I happily agreed, having no idea it would end up being my creativity’s saving grace through the hellacious month of September. It gave me an abstract way to keep writing whilst exploring my sexuality.

5. I Went to a Beyonce Concert


My friend and fellow blogger, Alli Knoth, and I went to go see Queen Bey in her hometown of Houston, Texas. We found some last minute tickets for $80 each and decided to treat ourselves because #yolo. Turns out, there’s not a bad seat in the house because it’s f*&!ing Beyonce and she put on a larger than life show. We left her concert feeling empowered and energized because WE SLAY!

6. I Ran a Half Marathon


The Brooklyn Rock n Roll Half Marathon was on October 8th. I signed up for it in the end of May, giving myself a little over four months to train for it. Looking back, this was one of the greatest gifts I could have given myself. I had no idea the amount of stress that would be coming up in the following months, but running helped me get through it. I’m not going to lie, running definitely added to my stress sometimes, but the feeling I got when I crossed that finish line made it all worth it.

7. I Meditated


Since January, I’ve meditated nearly every day for at least ten minutes. My mind is racing constantly, especially during times of stress. Those twenty minutes a day help my manage my anxiety and depression.  A common misconception about meditation is that the mind is supposed to be completely silent throughout the duration of the practice. That’s just not true. Meditation gives me a chance to chill out and actually listen to what’s going on inside my head. When I make time for stillness, life tends to be a bit easier.

8. I Met Jackie 


Before she was a wife, before she was a mom, before she was Nana, she was a woman name Jackie from Seattle. She was a model. She was an artist. She loved fashion. She loved music. She loved her family and friends. She had her own daily struggles she was going through. She was just a woman trying to make it in this world. Just. Like. Me. For thirty years, I only saw her as Nana. While she was a fabulous grandmother, she was so much more than that.  She showed her love for me by surrounding me with art and teaching me to see the beauty in our world. A lot of our time together was in her basement, where she taught me how to paint. If we weren’t in her basement, she was taking me to museums, to plays, or to paper mache and pottery classes. I don’t know that I’d be a writer if she never instilled the importance of creativity in me at such a young age.


The month of September brought a profound amount of stress my way. I had cravings for whiskey. I missed it so badly. I wanted a Jack on the rocks (or 5) and to mentally check out for the rest of the night. I didn’t get close to caving in, but I definitely had some reminiscant moments. To be completely honest, the thought of dealing with the amount of stress I was under while nursing a hangover sounded even worse.

I remember one moment in particular when I was crying at my mom’s apartment and said “no wonder why I drank so much…REALITY SUCKS!” and we both laughed. While reality can suck, nothing sucks more than avoiding it, numbing it, or pretending that everything is fine. I coped with death sans alcohol by coping with reality. Oh, and I listened to this song a few times…


2 thoughts on “How I Coped with Death. Sober.

  1. Mark David Goodson

    Wow. What a month! In the wake of loss too. What a healthy way to grieve. I am sorry for your loss Tawny, but glad to see you are going THROUGH it, instead of around or away from it. As usual, you are a source of light, inspiration, and hope.

  2. JoAnna

    What a good job! And you are stronger because of this work you have done (even though it sucks.) I feel your Nana is so proud of you. She loves you forever. Hold on to those good memories!

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