They say what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. Of course, it goes without saying that this phrase is referred to our mental state as opposed to our physical state of being. After losing my dad to cancer almost 3 weeks ago, I’ve had some time to reflect on life. I hear many people say that losing a loved one (a parent, a sibling, a spouse, or child), especially someone that is very close to you, changes you. I’ve lost many close relatives, some not so close friends, but I’ve never experienced a loss like this. A loss that digs so deep into my soul, that sometimes I feel I can’t breathe. A feeling that will never go away regardless of how I try to distract my thoughts.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted on my blog and to be very honest, I had not idea what I wanted to write about. I thought I should dive deep back into talking about fitness, mindset, and nutrition tips, but it didn’t feel natural. Instead, I feel compelled to speak about my dad and how it’s affected me both mentally and physically in hopes that my experience will help others move forward. So here it goes.
Running, in particular trail running, has always been my ‘go to’ mechanism for stress release. There is something to be said about lacing up your shoes, hitting the trails with no distractions (cars or people), and getting lost in nature with my own thoughts. For myself, trail running brings me a feeling of calmness where I never feel judged and I always finish with a sense of accomplishment both mentally and physically. However, I’m not feeling stressed, but rather heartbroken. Running can’t fix my dismal mood or can it?
Tomorrow, I run my first trail race of the season. Normally, I would feel excited and somewhat a little nervous as race day approaches, but today, I feel nothing. In fact, I don’t even want to run in the race. I’ve had no desire to put on a pair of shoes and hit the road or trail for a run since my dad passed away. Time has stood still for me. Nothing matters to me even though I know I need t move forward. The fact that when I’m running and alone with my thoughts scares the hell out of me. I’ve tried so hard not to think about my dad and what he went through that any distraction other than him is welcoming in my mind.
So earlier this week, my husband, dragged me out for a short run. It was the most difficult run I had ever experienced. Even my favourite tunes couldn’t distract the thoughts entering my head. I was overwhelmed with emotion with every step I took from guilt to sadness. In fact, I could of even experienced an injury and wouldn’t of even realized what was happening to my body as my mind was taking over. The mind usually does. The body achieves what the mind believes.
With each step, my body was flooded with emotions and the tears started to roll down my face. Crying while running, who does that? I guess you could say that I’m somewhat of an emotional person but I would rather refer to it as more as being passionate about the things I care about in life. I’m sad, I miss my dad dearly and I cry. Isn’t that what most people do? We live in a society where crying is known as a sign of weakness instead of allowing it to serve its purpose, that being one of an emotional release but also a normal emotion. I’m so tired of being told to stop crying as my dad wouldn’t want me to. I WANT TO CRY! It’s about me. It’s about how I need to move on without him and if I need to cry several times a day, I will do that. Everyone’s grieving process is different and I’m here to tell you that you if want to cry, then JUST DO IT!
I’m so use to training others, bringing them up when they’re down, helping them come back from injuries, and coaching them to be the best version of themselves that I had to practice what I preach. Instead of telling myself to ‘suck it up buttercup’ (I phrase I commonly use on myself when I feel like giving up physically), I gave myself permission to let the tears continue. It was the most pleasurable release.
I finished the run, not with a sense of accomplishment but rather with the feeling that its ok to get back into routine and to live my life again, whatever that means. I guess finding routine again means accepting that he’s never coming back. It’s a scary thought to live with for the rest of your life. Someone is with you one day, and gone the next, never to return. How do you move on after that?
My dad always taught me to go out and live my life, I mean really live your life and do the things you love to do. He was a simple man but a wise one. I’ve been running for over 35 years (give or take a few years due to injuries) and being on the trails is one of my recreational passions. In fact, there is no other physical activity that comes close in terms of satisfaction. Racing tomorrow or should I say running tomorrow will be the first step in knowing that I will be ok even though I know life itself has changed forever. Even though I’m not physically or mentally prepared for this race, I will go out and run the trail and finish it not for my dad but for myself. The tears will present themselves with each stride, but I know my dad’s strength and wisdom will guide me to the finish line regardless of my time. It’s not a race, but rather a stepping stone to learn to love again one of life’s simplest pleasures.
I think the best lesson I have learned so far since my dad’s passing is that I need to be honest with myself. Change is a process of life and there is much change to come. There is no particular coping mechanism to bring peace back in my life. There is no time limit to heal and move forward. It’s a process. I acknowledge the pain when it’s there, I cry when I feel like crying, and when I feel like laughing again, the moment will present itself. One thing that I do know for sure, is that I will learn to love running again.
Love you always and forever dad. Until we meet again……