How physical activity improved my grief
It's been said that time heals all wounds. Right? But the pain never goes away for those who have lost a loved one. We often feel like we're just going through the motions, existing in a world without color. I felt like I was in this giant bubble, slowly walking through life, watching everyone around me laugh and enjoy life. It did not seem fair at all.
But what if I told you that there is something that can help ease the pain of grief? Something that can help you to start living again? That something is physical activity. I never thought that physical activity was one of the keys that would unlock the emotional pain caused by losing my wife to Cancer.
Now, I know what you're thinking. How could something as simple as walking or running help with overwhelming sadness and despair? But trust me, it can. Studies have shown that exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. I have also interviewed over 150 widows and widowers about their experiences processing emotions with some form of physical activity. The experiences left me in awe of how they could release the feelings of their grief.
Research has also shown that physical activities also help to reduce stress and anxiety levels. And while they won't take away the pain of your loss, they can help you and give your mind permission to cope healthily.
So, if you're stuck in a rut, don't be afraid to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement, start yoga classes, get a massage, or just go on a simple hike in the mountains.
Who knows? You might just find yourself feeling a little bit better along the way.
While grieving my wife's death, I found it hard to get out of bed some days.
After my wife's death, I often felt overwhelmed by grief. I would wake up each morning feeling heavier than the day before—as though a shield of sadness had suddenly manifested around me and made it hard to move.
But after a while, I began to make small steps forward. Gradually, an optimistic view replaced my despair, and I could focus on the positive memories we'd shared rather than the pain of his departure. I focused on the mantra "just one day at a time" or even just one hour at a time," and when things were tough, I would say, "Just one moment at a time." Soon, even on the worst days, I could find hope and strength within myself; even in loss, there is the prospect of joy ahead.
But I forced myself to go for walks and eventually started running.
Even though it felt like the last thing I wanted to do in my grieving state, I was determined to try and stay active. So I pushed myself to take walks daily, often stopping to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me, and focused on what I was grateful for.
Initially, I took short strolls around my neighborhood. As time went by, I managed to slowly increase the distance until I eventually ran for miles at a time. It proved a crucial psychological exercise in my grief journey – gradually forcing myself outside of my comfort zone helped me start to embrace this new life without my beloved companion.
I started to feel things more and more the harder I began to push my physical abilities, and at times I would start to feel emotions on longer runs. I did not expect this at times but did not dismiss it. I want to allow myself to feel things without judgment, and it will enable me to feel what I need to feel.
As a therapist, I often tell my clients to just feel their emotions. I also felt like all my clients were speaking at times, saying, "Jason, just feel your emotions." It was as if all the clients I have helped with deep trauma, grief, and emotional pain returned to be at my side.
Now, I run daily and feel much better mentally and physically.
Running every day has been a massive optimistic change for me. It has left me feeling mentally more robust and physically more energetic than ever. I have found myself filled with increased hope and optimism, allowing me to work through difficult times while maintaining a positive attitude. With so much to grieve in life, running has been an incredibly therapeutic way for me to navigate the lows and appreciate the highs, inspiring care, sympathy, and hope along the way.
I have felt that physical activity permitted me to express my emotions more openly and willingly. As a male, this taught me to be strong, take off the "mask of masculinity," and share my feelings more often. For me, this has been a game changer. I am now stronger physically due to the exercise, but emotionally intense as well due to being vulnerable with my emotions.
Grief is still a part of my life, but exercise has helped me cope healthily.
Grief still has a great hold on me, but I have found that exercising on a regular basis has helped me manage it more healthily. It has aided me in finding optimistic hope and staying positive. Exercise gives me an avenue to feel empowered again and allows a reprieve from my sadness when I'm holding on to grief.
It's hard for any griever to stay strong, but incorporating exercise as a coping mechanism gives us a chance to counterbalance the pain with something more constructive and meaningful.
If you're struggling with grief, I encourage you to try exercise- it might help you too!
Grief can be one of the most overwhelming emotions a person can experience after experiencing a significant loss. It is not easy to look towards the future with optimism, yet I encourage you to exercise and use that as an outlet during your grief.
Intense physical exercise gives our brains a temporary pause from the pain and helps us keep hope alive as we weather intense waves of sadness and sorrow. It allows us to take control of our state of mind and even, if we're lucky, create moments where we feel joyous amidst grief.
Despite the pain, there is great potential for growth and healing through exercising mindfully with grief in our hearts! Hope for happiness should never be forgotten for those walking this difficult journey.
Grief is a process, not an event. It's something that we have to live with for the rest of our lives. But there are things we can do to help us cope in healthy ways. For me, exercise was (and still is) one of those things. It gave me permission to heal and find joy again. If you're struggling with grief, I encourage you to try exercise- it might help you too!