Running with Grief

I lace up my shoes and head out. It’s not like I haven’t run before. I’ve run so many times over the past years. It’s just that this time feels different. In fact, everything is different. And, for me, it will forever be different.

As I run, I just want to run away. From the pain, the anxiety, the stress. The doctors, the lawyers, the unknown.

The uncertainty.

But where will I go? Does it even matter? What happens if I miss a phone call? What happens if I miss THE phone call?

Despite this, I run anyway. I run fast. I run alone. I run anywhere. 

The great thing about running is it gives me the freedom to escape my thoughts and realities, even if only for a while. Today, I am tired, but I’m having fun. The sun is starting to warm up the mid-March day and I’m glad I’m not overdressed. Though the sun is bright, I’m overcome with emotion and anxiety as a sense of loneliness cloaks me like a dark winter night. I rush back to my car so that I can check my phone and ensure I didn’t miss anything.

If I had, I’m not sure that I could’ve forgiven myself.

I slide into the driver’s seat and head back. Back to tell my mom all about my run. She knows how excited I get and what it means to me. She’s not much for words, but that’s alright! I know she’s proud from the way she looks at me. 

You see, on this day, my mom can’t talk because she is in the palliative care ward at Credit Valley Hospital with terminal lung and brain cancer. 

She died two months later.

Agonizingly, my brother almost five months after that.

And me? I ran some more. 

Running is many things to many different people. Its dynamism, I believe, is exactly why we’re so drawn to it. For me, running has been a tremendous coping mechanism to deal with grief.

Despite not being alone in my day-to-day life, I often find myself feeling lonely, isolated, scared, confused, angry, and resentful. Like I must cross an insurmountable valley to continue the path forward. To gain some balance and perspective, even if only for a few minutes, I run. Sometimes I run fast, sometimes slow. And sometimes I cry while I run.

They say that time heals everything. Perhaps, but not grief. Grief forever changes you. It can still lurk even in your happiest of moments. 

I believe that #runningistherapy, but I also believe it can be a great coping mechanism. It has literally allowed me to function when I couldn’t—given me strength when I wanted to curl up and hide. It has also invited me to work through some of the darker emotions. Emotions like anger, guilt, and resentment.

Grief is a very complex and difficult mental health struggle that affects people in unique ways. As Bell Let’s Talk Day (https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/) highlighted on January 28th, 2021, it’s important to take a breath and recognize our own struggles when we are victims of grief.

It’s just as important to check in on a friend or loved one and let them know they’re not alone (even though they might feel entirely isolated) and that they’re loved. They may not be ready to share or even know how to express their pain. That’s okay.

Sometimes being silent with a loved one speaks volumes.

This year, I’ve made a commitment to continue running and to honour all of the (too many) loved ones that I’ve lost. This year, I will continue to run because running is easy, life is hard.