Stages of Grief
Several years ago I was struggling through a track workout when a good friend of mine, Tim, started saying things to me during the workout that were kind of out of character for him. I remember feeling sorry for myself for an interval, getting really mad on another, and eventually finishing on a much better note. As we talked while I stretched he told me he saw me losing the workout and used the stages of grief to try and push me through. He said his thought process was, the faster I got to acceptance stage the more successful my workout would become.
I bring this up because last week, two weeks post Boston Marathon, this workout popped into my head and I realized the events of the Boston Marathon truly had me going through the stages of grief. Although I did not know any of the victims personally, I view the running community as my family, and so I hurt. That easily could have been me or my immediate family. I’ve stood where they stood a hundred times. Races are my home away from home and mine had been attacked. I was in shock and unable to turn away from the hotel t.v. less than a block from the site. Who could do something like that? A terrorist attack on innocent people; my brain will never comprehend. My shock, sadness, and anger were muddled.
When I was finally able to call my family, my four-year-old son told me, “Mommy, there were two explosions.” We kept telling each other we loved each other and we prayed for those who were hurt, scared, and sad. When I returned home he was worried I was going to die. This made me hurt even more. I scrolled through the ongoing news and photos in private, with my heart continuing to break.
Back in Virginia at the grocery store I had a breakdown in the cracker aisle as I saw a man proudly wearing his 2013 Boston jacket. I would usually approach such a person post marathons to congratulate them or inquire about their journey, but on that day I was too choked up. Again I was angry and filled with sorrow that the bombings overshadowed the marathon, such an incredible feat. I felt as if asking his time would have been like asking, how far removed were you from the blast? I wanted to give him a hug and ask how he was holding up more from an emotional standpoint than the physical you would associate with a person post marathon.
As I tried to work through my feelings and heal I went back to something my mom had shared with me the night before the race:
Mom: This is what my April 15th journal entry is from my book, Jesus Calling.
“TRUST ME, and don’t be afraid. Many things feel out of control. Your routines are not running smoothly. You tend to feel more secure when your life is predictable. Let Me lead you to the rock that is higher than you and your circumstances. Take refuge in the shelter of My wings, where you are absolutely secure.
I lead you on from glory to glory, making you fit for My kingdom. Say yes to the ways I work in your life. Trust Me and don’t be afraid.”
April 15 was definitely a day with circumstances that had me afraid and looking up to God for answers. Situations like this are when I feel the urge to question, “Why.” It’s when I wish He would throw down a map and say don’t worry this is exactly where I am going with this. My life had been rocked, but I knew in my heart to keep the faith and pray. Healing takes time and so I began focusing on what I could control.
On multiple days I dragged myself out of bed, but as time went on I found comfort in the stories of the heroes. The first responders, the victims themselves, the runners who donated blood, the people who stood strong and pulled together to show the strength of the running community. When my running break ended, I laced back up my Mizuno’s and ran. I ran for therapy, I ran for Boston, and I ran for those unable to run.
Like our foot strikes as we run step by step, we runners have an uncanny ability to bouce back higher and with more passion and to recruit more runners in the process. The ways in which we runners are there when we need each other most is truly a special thing. The unity provides much needed hope for many of us. As we pound the pavement, the trails, the treadmill, converse with a running partner, and line up again, we work through things. For me personally, it is helping me move through the stages of grief to the later stages of acceptance and hope. It’s taken me much longer to get there than my workout example at the beginning of this post, but I will get there.
Be fearless, run for the love, and keep your faith.