Health & Well-Being

Getting Through Grief and Loss is Like a Marathon

How are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you? Did you resolve to eat healthy and exercise more? You may be training to run a marathon in Los Angeles or Boston this spring. If so, I, for one, am impressed.

Several of my friends and family are runners. I admire their dedication to the cardio workout. It’s a challenging process that requires both mental and physical fortitude. They say that reaching their personal running milestone is worth the pain and effort. 

Day after day, they plan a route and, over time, increase the mileage on their sneakers. A new pair is purchased every three months as the treads wear down and are no longer supportive. It’s a long process, too, tailored to the individual’s goals on how to complete the race in record time or at all. 

Training for a marathon can be a lonely endeavor. It’s you against the road and the weather. You are on your own. How do you persevere through the painful muscles and burning sweat in your eyes? It’s a long-distance task, but you can do it with a network of cheering fans along the way. Do you see the finish line? 

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The grief journey can be overwhelming; take it one step at a time

Navigating the grief journey one step at a time

A grief journey is much like running a marathon. Both challenging and demanding experiences require endurance, resilience, and gradual progress. Like the racecourse, the grief journey is often unpredictable, with ups and downs. It can be quite a slippery slope.

Remember the first day of exercise? The muscles ache so much you can barely move. Now, think of the very first day of the grief journey. Losing a loved one is an assault. It overwhelms you with pain. For some, the pain is excruciating, and like the runner, you may require medical attention. The emotional and physical toll is all part of the process. 

Be determined to get through it. Healing will happen.

The pain of loss, while undeniable, will not keep you from going forward. It’s a test of not only your stamina but also your mental fortitude. As you navigate the roadblocks of denial and anger, each workout strengthens you and moves a little faster. While progress may seem slow, give yourself a break. You are coping with so many emotions, memories, and the profound loss of your loved one. No one knows how long this grieving process can take, but it takes as long as needed.

There are sunny days when the run is quite enjoyable. It’s hard to imagine it, but as long as you persevere, putting one foot in front of the other, you will endure. You will smile at your progress and be amazed at how good you feel with your newfound strength.

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Your supporters are there for you

Remember, the grief journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Thankfully, you are not alone. Along the way, there are supporters. They hand you some water or a tissue to wipe the burning tears from your eyes. They cheer you on and hold you up when it seems there is no strength to put another step forward. 

Just as geese do when they fly in a group (see Lisa’s “Good Grief Geese” story HERE), your supporters will help you carry the load. It’s an exhausting, long journey, but you can do it. I know you can because, along the way, no one is cheering as loud as the person you have loved and lost. You honor and celebrate them in this race. In your heart, they go wherever you go. They do whatever you do. They are running the marathon with you; you will see them at the finish line some day. 

While running a marathon and a grief journey are distinct experiences, there are similarities. It takes endurance, resilience, and support to face the challenge. Personal growth and understanding are worth running through the fire.

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Lisa Keys

Lisa Keys is an award-winning home cook, mother, grandmother, and retired physician assistant. She has been entering and winning cooking contests since 1990, and her recipes have been well-published in national magazines, cookbooks, and online publications. She holds certifications as a Food Champ, Steak Association judge, and pizza judge. Keys is also a food blogger. Three years after the death of her son, a US Navy Corpsman, she embarked on a public grief journey and became a Food Network Chopped Champion on the 2014 Mother's Day episode. Her inspiring food blog, www.GoodGriefCook.com, followed and continues to reflect Keys' philosophy that preparing and sharing food with others is an extension of one's heart and soul.

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