Grieving While Running

“Everything I’m seeing and experiencing is telling me that we’re moving together through stages of grief. The hard part is, we’re also moving together through stages of a marathon. So we’re grieving while running. And we started the marathon with a sprint.”

These raw yet deeply insightful words were shared by a Houston pastor who found himself sloshing through two feet of brown floodwater in their church building just two weeks after his installation service as the new pastor there. The celebration service, the excitement, the strategic planning meetings – all are now a distant memory drowned out by the deluge of destruction we now know simply as “Harvey”.  Reading his blog, I was struck by the simplistic heaviness of his words, “grieving while running.”

Now I am not accomplished at either of these, grieving or running. I cannot recall the last time I actually ran. Maybe it was in an elementary school gym class. At best, today I sprint for a few minutes while my leashed dog drags me behind her on a neighborhood walk. Regardless, one thing is for sure – I am a terrible runner. It requires a stamina I have not developed and unfortunately have no desire to develop.

Running is a work of the body and mind. Grieving is a work of the soul. It requires a stamina that cannot be developed in advance. We cannot learn the labor of grief until we are faced with the journey of grief. There is a physical exhaustion, an emotional rawness, a mental re-defining attached to grief. It requires an invisible work in us that sometimes cannot be explained and often leaves us feeling alone.

Perhaps you – like this pastor in Houston – find yourself in a marathon you never chose. Every day you pick up the weight of grief and try to take some small steps forward. But life has you running a marathon you cannot avoid. Care for the other parent who has outlived the spouse. Children to care for who themselves cannot understand this kind of loss. The loneliness of becoming a widow or widower. Or even the collective grief of hurricane devastation -neighbors helping neighbors when neither can live in their homes, church members teaming up to “form bucket brigades to pass putrid belongings out of a moldy home.”  For all of you who find yourself grieving while running, my heart goes out to you.

If you find yourself in the midst of the grieving process, I recommend a booklet shared with me some years ago by a friend whose two daughters had passed away due to cystic fibrosis. In Grieving: Your Path Back to Peace you will find valuable insights and words of encouragement on every page. If you have a friend going through the grieving process and you are not sure how to help, this booklet makes a thoughtful gift or discussion starter. There is hope. There is help. There is healing to be found.

About Deb Ashley

At home, Deb is the wife of Mark and mom of three adult children. She enjoys cooking, taking care of a small but somewhat productive garden, feeding the local community of birds and other assorted critters, and taking naps with her dog Mandy. Her passions include teaching, writing and music. In the community, Deb enjoys working alongside her husband in his role as a pastor. She is involved in teaching and encouraging women from all walks of life through book studies, counseling, and speaking opportunities.
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