Rachelle has taught me SO much about life. She has been there with me through the hardest times of my life and has helped me in so many ways! I know that she can help so many others get through the tough stuff in life and so I am excited for her to share some more about her life with you. You can read her previous post here—> 7 Life Lessons I’ve learned from Running.
Hey Hungry Runner Readers, this is Rachelle back with a post that will hopefully resonate with some of you. I’m so glad that Janae is full of joy, laughter, and fun on her blog. Because it seems that my posts are always a little deeper and more on the serious side. I promise Janae will be back soon to brighten your day and cheer you up!:)
In the meantime stick around. I’m here to talk about how running has helped me to cope with death. Please stay with me as I hope I have some beneficial and meaningful thoughts to share. Running and intense exercise have been proven to have emotional benefits that go far beyond improved physical health.
This past week my grandmother passed away completely unexpectedly. Losing my grandma in such a traumatic way evoked feelings of shock, despair, numbness, confusion, inadequacy, and sadness. Her loss left me feeling lonely and completely cut-off from the real world.
I remember these raw and vulnerable feelings vividly from losing my little brother in a car accident in 2009. After the initial shock, the funeral, and the stress I realized I was shattered from his death. I was left feeling alone, angry and even guilty for his loss. I had no idea how to cope and could not imagine moving forward. It was the most confusing and difficult time of my life.
For some reason I literally started putting one foot in front of the other. I had absolutely no experience at all with running and it was a very slow process. But I kept trying. I kept trying because I felt closer to my brother and I knew he would be proud of me for trying something scary and hard. I felt my brother with me and watching over me. It was like Trevor was encouraging me and cheering for me from up above. The feeling of him being connected to me helped me to slowly overcome my sadness. The challenge of running allowed me to grieve with the loss of my brother.
Running, for me, became a positive light in my seemingly dark and chaotic life at the time. The more I ran and the stronger I became the more connected I felt with my brother. Running gave me courage and helped me to cope with my loss in a healthier way. Running provided me with an outlet, a constant, and gave me time to reflect on my bother and his life. It was absolutely beneficial in my emotional healing.
Yesterday as I went out on my daily run I was reminded of my grandma and the feelings I had when I lost my brother. I was able to process some of the hurt and the pain I was experiencing. Being out on the road putting one foot in front of the other helped me to sort through my emotions and reflect and ruminate.
I know everyone deals with grief in different ways and I am not here to tell you that running and exercise is the best or only way to cope. But I do know that running has helped me. Below are some of the ways that running has helped me to grieve and assisted me personally in the healing process.
1. Finding meaning in your loss. When my brother passed away six years ago on October 27th he became an organ donor. Each year my family and I honor my brother by participating in the annual Dash For Donation. This activity has become a wonderful tradition for my family and friends and it is such a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my brother and his loss. We chose to use this fundraiser to celebrate Trevor’s life. In addition we have also gained a deep and profound appreciation for the benefits of organ donation. Supporting this cause has gien my running more meaning and helped me to continue to cope with the loss of my brother.
2. Time to reflect on your loss and connect with your loved ones. Running for me is a way of spiritually connecting with my brother, my grandma, and those I have lost. I often feel their spirit with me when I am running and even focus on them towards the end of a race to give my race greater purpose. While I’ve been trying to grieve the sudden loss of my grandma I’ve felt alone and lost. Running has helped me to feel my grandma’s soul and reflect on positive memories of her life. I even found myself smiling about the memories on my last run.
3. Honor your loved one. When I first started running it quickly became, for me, a positive way to honor the life of my brother. As I’ve spoken openly about in the past, I’ve struggled with both addiction and anxiety. Running was a positive way to cope with Trevor’s death and something that I knew would make him proud. I think that what our loved ones want most for us is to thrive and be happy. Part of fulfilling their wishes is taking carte of ourselves and putting our own health firs.t Running for my brother even encouraged me to run my first half marathon exactly one year after his funeral.
4. Sort through your feelings. When your life is feeling scary and out of control getting away and removing yourself can give you time to grieve. For me running helped me to understand my feelings and work through them in a positive way. It made me feel confident and strong enough o overcome devastation. Running can evoke a sense of purpose and is a great way to regain the feeling of being in charge of your own life.
5. Breathe. Everything is going to be okay. Often when I am feeling suffocated by stress and anxiety I forget to stop, take in my surroundings, and just breathe. Running can be peaceful, meaningful, and a great reminder to take life in the moment and one breath at a time. Death is overwhelming and it is difficult to see past the trauma. Running forces us to breathe and rotate our perspective to getting through the day one step at a time. This might sound cliché but I honestly believe that sweating out the sadness can help us refocus and move forward with our day.
I can certainly say that running has helped me through several extraordinary difficult periods of my life. It has comforted me when I am weak, provided me solace, peace, and most importantly given me purpose. When we lose someone it is difficult to not feel like all is lost. Exercise has been a positive outlet in my life and while it cannot bring that person back, I do feel like it can be effective in the mourning process. While exercise and running cannot take away the emotional scars, it has helped me keep a positive attitude through difficult times, and take better care of myself while grieving. Unexpected death is not easy but it has given me a deeper appreciation and brevity for life. It has broadened my perspective, and made me love more deeply, and appreciate every second of life.
How has exercise or running helped you cope with difficult times?
Do you think running has healing effects?