Grief can catch you off guard, knock you over. Have you ever been surfing and gotten destroyed by a wave? That’s how I picture grief hitting me. You wonder if you will or even can make it out alive. I have made it out every time. I credit getting outside, running, and community for keeping me afloat when I felt like I was drowning.
My journey with running started long, long ago during high school volleyball off season. I ran cross country and slowly began to love the freedom I felt. I remember it being one of the first sports I felt actually good at and that was a good feeling. It has seen me through my awkward high school phase, college challenges and trying to look a certain way. It has been with me in the coldest winters in Michigan during grad school and during the hottest, flattest years in South Florida. It has become something my husband and I enjoy doing together – well, I am usually trailing behind.
Running has seen me at my worst and has carried me through immense grief. The initial feelings when losing someone near and dear are unbearable. Then the waves of grief that come out of nowhere (weeks, months, years later) that seem to taunt me. Running has seen me through these dark moments and has provided me a space to question, be present with silence, and confront fears. Finding trail running years ago brought on a new sense of power within myself. The strength we draw from mountains, trees, the immensity of nature is just unreal. I no longer am trying to escape the pain of loss, I am running toward it and finding fragments of healing along the way.
I am a mother to two sweet babes and motherhood has been my greatest joy, as well as a subject of grief. I am working through not feeling bad about that. I am joyful that I get the privilege to be mom to these kids but there was a grief period, especially after the birth of my oldest. I quickly began to see how my life changed and, essentially, my identity. My love for running didn’t seem as clear cut and I was struggling to find time to get outside. I missed the solo runs, the ability to train for races, and the freedom. I had to go through a period of grieving the loss of my life pre-kids. I am starting to see all that is possible with running while being a mother. Having little cheerleaders that I birthed is just something else!
Running has also brought me community, which has been healing. We were made to engage with others on this earth and it is special when we meet a fellow woman, maybe mother, with whom we seem to have an oddly amazing connection. Then, we no longer feel completely alone in the struggles motherhood can bring. Running has been healing with its gift of methodical movement, as well as providing me with a strong and supportive group of women. The stability of movement and community has made the waves of grief less scary.
If you are looking for a local running community or mom friends, I hope you find them. Don’t give up. It is worth it.
If you are grieving the loss of someone, the inability to have a child, a change in identity, whatever it may be…You are not alone, even if it feels like you are.