A few months after my mother passed away I ran a 6 mile race in her memory. As I ran, I thought about her and how she was so passionate about running and I wondered if I would ever feel the same way. It took me a few years, but I eventually became just as passionate about running and I also realized that it provided a sense of reprieve from some of the difficulties I encountered in my life. Running became my medicine for depression and it also became a time when I could think about big ideas, make spiritual connections and grieve.
Grief has always been a part of my life. I was born into grief. Two parents who had a second child after losing the first to SIDS. The brother I never met. I didn’t understand grief at the time, but I grew up wondering what it would have been like to have Joshua here with me. He probably would have been a great big brother who would have protected me from everything that was thrown at me. Instead I was on my own. The grief my parents suffered left them broken and unable to properly take care of me and their marriage. As a result I became very close to my grandparents.
The sorrow I endured during my grandmother’s passing was my first intense encounter with grief. I could not even bear to look at her lying in that coffin because I wanted her to talk to me and tell me everything would be okay. Just two years later my mother passed. Along with that grief came guilt. I had always made it difficult for my mother to get close to me. She wanted me to forgive her and she tried to make things right. I had built a wall around me and did not let her in. Years later I finally gained a new perspective and instead of focusing on what she had done wrong, I focused on the things she got right, including running. She is the reason why I started running and the reason why I started this blog.
Grief and worry entered my life again soon after my first child was born. I received a call that my father had been diagnosed with cancer and it was going to be a rough road ahead. It was constant worry for the following year. Watching him get sick from chemo, wondering if he would be able to fight it. We brought his granddaughter over as often as we could. She was his light in a dark tunnel. I just didn’t think I could bear to lose another parent. But my dad fought… and won.
Years later I went for a run as usual, but this time as I ran I grieved for my grandfather. At that point in my life, I realized I HAD to run. I reflected on the memories I cherished and the great qualities my grandfather had passed along to me. Around this time is when I stopped running with music. I didn’t need it and I didn’t want it. People often ask me now “How do you run without music?” I just do. I just get inside my head and do what I need to do to feel better. Maybe one day I am thinking about the crazy squirrels scrambling up the trees or another day I am contemplating the purpose of life.
A few years ago new sorrow arrived. My stepmother was diagnosed with a brain tumor that turned out to be cancerous. The doctors didn’t give her much time but she was determined to fight. She fought for almost 2 years until the cancer won. I had my own grief to work through, but this time I really became aware of my father’s grief. I realized that another person’s grief can be absorbed by someone else. This became more apparent a few months ago when my sister-in-law’s son passed away. I never got the chance to know him very well, but I was still consumed by the grief of my stepbrother and sister-in-law.
Life appears to be an endless cycle of happiness and sadness. With so much grief, I can’t let it consume me, change me or keep me down. Running is my fight against grief.
More sorrow has entered my life and I have to go through the grieving yet again. It is a different type of grief this time, but I know what grief feels like and this is it. My family and I are hurricane victims. We were torn apart and we have lost so much. We have been displaced from our home and have been wandering around like lost souls. Yesterday, I cried most of the day. After I dropped the kids off at school, I sat in the car and sobbed. I sobbed hard and long. “Fuck you grief.” Yesterday I became consumed by the grief and couldn’t hold myself together. I let it come in and do its thing. I grieved for the separation of my family. I grieved for the separation from our friends. I grieved for our damaged things we have spent 15 years collecting. I grieved for my children who are suffering, but trying to keep moving forward (and doing a much better job than I am). I grieved for all of the other families going through this. I grieved for Puerto Rico. I grieved for the pain my husband feels. I grieved for the reality that we will never be the same.
Then this morning I ran.