“When someone you love dies, it can seem as though your whole life is spiraling out of control. That’s how I felt in the weeks and months following the death of my husband.
I was numb and at the mercy of my grief. If grief wanted me to cry in the middle of the grocery store as I remembered all the fun we had cooking, then it was there that my eyes would fill with tears. If grief wanted its presence felt as I drove to work, then I just had to sit in the parking lot, hoping to compose myself before walking into my office.
It felt like grief was slowly taking away all the activities I enjoyed even prior to my husband’s death. One of those activities was jogging. I’d joined a local run group a few weeks before his passing and had especially enjoyed being outdoors and meeting new people.
When he died, I lost my drive to continue running. It seemed I’d lost control over everything in my life.
After about a month, I got sick and tired of feeling hopeless and decided to take back a small piece of my pre-loss life.
I signed up for my first post-loss 5K run but wondered if I’d made the right decision. I worried that people would think I was ‘over’ my loss. That somehow my rejoining the land of the living meant I was ‘okay.’ I wasn’t. I felt I’d even be judged for being ‘strong’ enough to exist outside my grief.
Despite my apprehensions, I laced up my sneakers and hit the pavement. It’s true what they say: You cannot outrun grief. You literally cannot. There were days when I cried as I ran. Times my loss felt so overwhelming that I wanted to stop at the midway point and have an emotional breakdown. But I was determined to push through.
I couldn’t control my grief, but I could control my body. I decided when and how long I ran. That control felt good and brought me some semblance of normalcy at a time when my life was anything but. I was 32 years old with a dead husband. I wanted to…needed to…feel in control.
In September 2012, six months after my husband’s passing, I signed up for a half-marathon. The race challenged me mentally, physically and emotionally. About 3 miles in, I reflected on the beauty of the day and how I wished my husband could have been here as my running partner, helping me maintain my pace. At the halfway point, my body started to feel aches that come with pushing your body beyond its normal limits. My mind was in worse shape. I remember my thoughts switched from ‘Oh, it’d be so nice if he were here’ to ‘Why isn’t he here?’ It was hard to make peace with the fact he wasn’t one of the adoring spouses in the crowd waving a ‘Go Kerry’ banner.
I willed myself not to cry, to not fall apart. Instead, I kept running. I jogged through the uncertainties of what my life would look like going forward. I ran through the unknowns that twirled in my head. I ran because I had to. I couldn’t control my husband dying unexpectedly, but I could control this ending. I deepened my resolve to complete the race.
Around mile 10, my once steady jog slowed to a power walk. I wondered if I’d taken this control thing too seriously and perhaps I’d be better off curled up, crying in bed. I won’t lie. There were times I thought about calling a cab and ending my misery; times I considered patting myself on the back, saying ‘good try’ and calling it a wrap.
Alone with my thoughts, the half-marathon reminded me of my grief. My legs were so sore I wondered if I was even moving. That’s how grief feels. Some days you wonder if there is even any healing going on. You hurt today just as much as you did yesterday. Where’s the progress?
And somewhere, wrapped in my thoughts, I saw mile marker 12. I was 1.1 miles from the finish line. The most difficult part of my journey was behind me. Much like my grief, the darkest, rawest stages had already happened.
When I crossed the finish line that day, I cried for me, I cried for my husband, I cried for our past and the future of which we were robbed. It didn’t matter that I finished fourth from last, the joy was in the fact that I’d finished. I had persevered. I’d gained the ultimate control.
While I understand that my grief will forever be a part of my life, I realize that it’s okay to push through the pain on the days it feels like grief will all but consume me. Most importantly, I learned it was okay to keep living and create new adventures, even after a devastating loss.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kerry Phillips, 38, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Do you have a similar grief journey? We’d like to hear your story, to help people know they are not alone. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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