A household full of girls! You can imagine the love, chaos, fights, laughter, tears, anger, and frustration. If you’re lucky enough to have a sister, then you understand what an important bond the girls share. There is no one that gets you like your sis. The girls were different versions of the same flame. Lilly was the risky, funny, adventurous sister. She was carefree and was not afraid of speaking her mind. She called it as it is. The other three looked up to her and went to her when they were in trouble. Lilly was their lawyer, friend, heart, and soul.
When Lilly got diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016 the sisters were confused and upset. No one really understood what we were up against. The sisters did not see the mental illness as much as they saw the addiction. They saw the addiction tearing apart the family. Why could Lilly not just stay in therapy, stick to her meds, lead a healthy lifestyle, and be happy? Easy as that! No kids - it was not as easy as that! Every day, Lilly had to struggle to be alive, struggle to make it, struggle with her demons, struggle against herself. Why did no one else get it?
Asmita had gone off to University in the fall of 2016. The girls missed her terribly. Lilly and Naina became inseparable. Lilly was a senior and Naina was a freshman with clout because of her sister. All three sisters pampered Simmi. In the fall of 2017, both Asmita and Lilly left for Ottawa. Naina and Simmi felt the void of not having both sisters around. Asmita was apprehensive to be in the same city as Lilly since she did not know what she was going to do if anything happened to Lilly. Lilly overdosed for the first time in October 2017. Asmita saved her. Lilly felt awful, shameful, guilty, and worthless for putting everyone, especially her sister through this trauma. Lilly never got over the guilt of hurting Asmita.
Lilly came back to Atlanta to a supportive loving family with no judgments. The goal was to heal Lilly. The girls were dedicated to her recovery. They attended family therapy, gratitude meetings, and rehab events. Anything to help and support Lilly. Naina would make care packages (a basket with her favourite things) to cheer her up. From 2017 to 2019 the girls celebrated every month that Lilly was sober. They were overprotective about her and shielded her from friends and family. However, the girls still did not understand Mental Illness. Lilly was alive and sober and that‘s all that mattered. She even started an honors psychology program at Georgia State in the summer of 2018 and maintained a 4.0 GPA. Her sisters were so proud of her hard work and determination. In July of 2019, Lilly started slipping. I started to notice that things were not right. She was manic, depressive, anxious, argumentative, aggressive. She was all over the place. Everyone thought I was being
Calamity struck once again. Lilly overdosed on August 30, 2019. The girls' hearts and trust were broken. How many more chances were they going to give Lilly? What they didn’t understand is that Lilly was separate from her Mental Illness and Addiction. They were furious with me for letting Lilly come home, supporting her, enrolling her in a new rehab. The girls refused to attend family therapy. They wanted nothing to do with Lilly. They couldn’t forgive Lilly for terrorizing the family and making the home unsafe. I was NEVER going to leave Lilly (something rehab recommends you do). The girls felt Lilly was the favored child, the most loved. No one understood the battle she was fighting.
I kept trying to make the girls understand: Lilly has a short life, be kind to her, try to read and educate yourself about bipolar disorder, empathize with her. Lilly is not a drug addict! Lilly is fighting an inner battle, of shame, hopelessness, unworthiness, and turmoil. The drugs were ONLY a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself.
The sisters needed time to forgive each other and heal. I knew, their love would get them through this. It was not going to happen overnight. Lilly had to work to gain their trust and they had to work on understanding the battle she was fighting. Xmas 2019 - we took the girls to Hawaii. Life was back to ‘normal’. All was forgiven and they were close once again. The girls were back to celebrating Lilly’s sobriety, achievements, and hard work.
Lilly started to deteriorate around March 2020. Once again, I felt that things were not right. This time the girls also noticed that Lilly was spiraling. Lilly started avoiding home and the family. Everyone was worried about her. Things were strained between everyone in the home. You couldn’t talk to Lilly without her spazzing and getting angry. At this point, the sisters were frustrated and at their wit's end. Why could Lilly not just try harder, why could Lilly not stick to the treatment plan, why did she not love us enough? No, my children - the problem is that Lilly loved us all too much and but could not love herself enough!
In hindsight, I feel Lilly‘s higher self was distancing herself from her sisters. She knew she was going to be going away soon and wanted to make it easier for her sisters. I don’t know how else to explain it. Lilly loved them! Lilly will always love and protect them!
They all feel guilty about their grief like they shouldn’t be allowed to mourn because they didn’t understand her while she was alive. They miss her a lot, miss not being able to spend more time with her. They feel guilty about not educating themselves on how destructive bipolar disorder could get. They feel lost.
Girls - you have every right to mourn Lilly, regardless of the feelings you had about her and her behavior. In losing your sister, you lost an essential person in your life, a person who you loved dearly. I want you to understand that Lilly’s disease made her into the person that hurt you so deeply. The most important thing I want to say to the three of you is that be gentle with yourselves. Allow yourselves to go through the feelings without questioning why you’re having them. It is the ONLY way we are going to get through this!
All three girls started therapy within 48hrs of Lilly’s passing. Asmita stopped therapy after a few sessions. She has her father’s mindset of looking inward and being strong-minded. She has started to educate herself on depression, anxiety, mental illness, and addiction. She uses Instagram actively to advocate and educate others on mental illness and addiction. She believes that this is how she can keep Lilly’s memory alive. Asmita encouraged me to blog to help me with my grief and to help other families that are struggling. Naina also stopped therapy after a few sessions. Naina does not like dealing with the ‘hard, messy’ stuff. I call her my coconut. Hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Naina is keeping herself busy with University while ignoring her grief and feelings. My prayer for both Asmita and Naina is to keep up with therapy and work through your grief and emotions. I would hate for them to end up with unresolved issues later on in life. Simmi is actively involved in therapy working through her grief and emotions. We sought a specialized type of trauma therapy for Simmi called EMDR Therapy. It’s important that she get through the shock and trauma of being the one that discovered Lilly.
The sisters have hard days and harder days. Not a single moment goes by without remembering Lilly. The days are filled with tears, sorrow, laughter, and anger. Losing a sibling to Mental Illness and Addiction is not easy. You have basically lost a person you love to something that you don’t understand and cannot see. You see a person who's high on life one minute and destructive the next. You cannot make sense of it. Lilly was not less of a sister for having an illness and addiction. Lilly has taught her sisters so much. She has made all three of them better stronger human beings. Lilly’s passing doesn’t change things - It will always be the ‘Puri Sisters’!