A Mourning Run

It’s been six weeks since my mom died. My heart aches every time I think about her, a homesick feeling I’m guessing will always be with me. There’s just something about a mom, and something not right about me not having one anymore. Of course she lives on in her family. In my youngest, her namesake, and my oldest, whose hair is the same beautiful shade of red my mom’s once was. I’m comforted by over 40 years of memories, I really am. But it’s just not enough.

I want my mom. Alive.

And so this new homesick feeling is a companion I’ve been busying myself trying impossibly to ignore. Probably not the best strategy, I know, but you do what you do to get by, right? There are times I let my guard down. Times I let my grief surface and heavy my chest until there is nothing left for me to do but lay down and cry myself to sleep. Times I go to the one place I can see my mom alive again—dreams filled with the healthy and spirited woman she once was.

Running has always been a type of therapy for me, helping soften the edges of the anxiety and depression I’ve had since I was a kid. But lately its therapeutic effects have grown even stronger. Physical pain (from pace or distance) has become an expression of grief, leaving me free to experience the memory of my mom in a calmer, softer way. While running, the memories don’t hurt my heart so much, because the pain is somehow channeled through my body. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, perhaps you can relate.

IMG_4875This “substitute pain” is why I decided to run for 12 hours and 24 minutes the other weekend. It would be a way for me to spend some quality time with my mom, without that heavy-hearted feeling I’ve grown to disdain. I could let go of the heaviness and spend the day with her, being open to whatever memories surfaced and whatever thoughts crossed my mind.

Spending quality time with my mom is what helped me to finish the hardest ultra distance race I’ve ever participated in. It was that desire that helped me push hard, finishing second overall among women and first among master’s women. I let my body take away my pain for 52 technical miles on the Superior Hiking Trail until I was able to say, out loud with the finish line in sight, that I miss her.

Healing from my mom’s death will take time; and I’m quite confident the wound will always be with me to some degree. But somehow I’m stronger for it. Just like crossing that finish line in Lutsen made me stronger. It helped me open the door a little, to test the experience of grief like a toe in a pool of water, to find strength in my sadness.

–Laurie

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “A Mourning Run

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you all so much for the wonderful comments. Thank God we have healthy outlets so readily available. Knowing I’m not alone in this means so much (but you all know that, too, don’t you?)! I’ve decided to start another blog where I can post about my experience of grief this next year. You are all invited to visit and POST YOUR THOUGHTS! It’s good to share our vulnerabilities and create connections… Here’s the link and THANKS AGAIN to you all…

    http://ayeartogrieve.blogspot.com/

    Laurie K.

  2. jo

    My mom passed away just as I was discovering running and I can’t imagine how I would have coped with her loss without it. That was almost 7 years ago – there are still runs today where I feel like I am spending my time just with her – telling her all about what’s been happening with us – how her grandkids are growing and what they are doing now in middle school and high school. It’s a great place to be together and feel her presence- out there running.
    take good care

  3. Linda

    Your words are very moving. I know all too well the pain of loss. I’m happy for you to have running as an outlet. Take care, Linda

  4. Anonymous

    This made me cry. It brings everything back. It will get easier with time (but that doesn’t make it easier now.) My thoughts are with you.

  5. Kris David

    Laurie, I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re right…there’s something just not right about not having your mom here, living, and spending time with you. My mom passed away almost 5 years ago now and I still miss her so much…always will. What I’ve learned through her passing is that grieving is a very personal process and there is no right or wrong way. Your way sounds so good and healthy. Keep it up and know that you are in my prayers. You will get stronger over time, but know that any moment you feel weak and just want to cry, it’s always okay. Mom’s leave an everlasting imprint on us that never goes away. Congratulations on a great run! Keep writing and keep running! You are in inspiration to me!

  6. Molly

    Great post Laurie!

  7. Laurie, I too lost my Mom recently. She died on August 16th after 19 days in ICU. I hadn’t been able to run much while she was in the hospital because I spent so much time there but whenever I could squeeze a run in to “clear the cobwebs” I did. After she passed away I was busy the first few days making the arrangements for her wake and funeral. But on the first day of her wake I got up early and went out for a 3 mile run. I knew I would need it to give me the energy and strength to get through the day and it did help me tremendously. Since then I have been running and biking as often as possible and find that during those times I am thinking about my Mom constantly. It is very therapeutic and I am so glad I have found these sports so that I can work through my emotions and grief in a positive way. Of course, I do eat chocolate more often than I used to but hey no one is perfect, lol.
    I am so sorry for your loss and I feel exactly the way you have described. In fact, I couldn’t place a description on the pain myself but you said it perfectly. I feel homesick. I miss her so much and want her back too.
    Thank you for your heartfelt words. They have touched me very much.

  8. Shannon

    I’m so sorry for your loss. There is indeed something about a mom. Mine passed away 15 years ago, when I was 22. The pain does ease and yet I still miss my mom every day.
    Congratulations on your run too . .. . I too am so grateful to have exercise as a means of processing not only grief, but stress, depression, and everything that life throws at us.
    Best wishes to you.

  9. First of all, I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. My heart aches for you. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer 3 1/2 years ago, the first thing I did was go for a run. I was also went for a run when I got the call that she is cancer free. In the in between, there were so many runs that ended in tears as I processed my emotions. I am so thankful that I have running. I have taken a break from it for a couple of months, and reading this post has made me ready to lace up my shoes.

    I wanted to congratulate you on your run! I was there cheering for my husband. It was an insanely difficult course! Big hugs to you and major congrats on an excellent race!

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