”The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her”
By Kathy Hansen
On Oct. 21, my world was rocked with the somewhat sudden loss of my mother. Although she lived an amazing 85 years, I was not prepared for the depth of the loss I felt that day and am still feeling as I write this column. I had heard through the years that the death of your mother is a loss like no other, and boy is that spot on. I have never felt so sad, angry and lost all at the same time ever in my life.
With the passing of time, the help of some wonderful friends and my church family, I know that eventually I will be OK. At the present however, sleep is hard to come by and my healthy diet has gone out the window with all the well-meaning folks bringing by comfort foods. The one thing I have been able to maintain, however, is my exercise routine.
Any significant loss in your life can trigger a powerful grieving process. A death in your family, the loss of a pet, divorce, or even being laid off may send you whirling down a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Numbness, anger, denial, despair, isolation, and depression all are par for the course when you’re grieving. What makes it even more frustrating is that it is not always an orderly process. I find myself being sad one moment, angry or “salty” as I like to call it the next, to feeling OK for a while. It is really frustrating and draining.
When you’re in the throes of such intense emotion, your instinct may be to isolate yourself alone in your bedroom, or it may be to surround yourself with people for distraction. There is no right or wrong process, only what works for you, but there is one activity that seems to offer benefit universally for virtually every grieving person who tries it, and that is exercise.
Here are a few of the ways that exercise can help you get through your grief:
— Improves your sense of control: Grieving and loss take all of your sense of control away. Intense exercise where you have to focus to perform the activity gives you control back.
— Increased circulation to the brain: Exercise of any kind increases blood flow to the brain. When you are in the throes of grief, it is hard to think straight. Exercise can remove the brain fog and help you focus on more positive thoughts.
— Improved sleep: People who exercise are able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Inability to sleep is a huge side effect of grief. By making sure you are keeping up your fitness routine, you can get the rest you need to deal with your emotions.
— Relieves depression: Exercise is one the best ways to alleviate depression. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, all natural and body-made mood elevators. This can alleviate the need for the use of pharmaceuticals to manage your grief.
— Relieves anxiety: The loss of a loved one can trigger tons of anxiety. Working through funeral arrangements, wills, etc., can be a huge stressor. Exercise can trigger the body to release what are called GABA neurotransmitters in the brain that can induce a feeling of calm.
While exercise will not take the pain and sadness of your loss away, it can help you get through it. Grieving is a process that has to be worked through to the end. I am trying my best to look at it like a CrossFit WOD. I know the workout is going to be long, grueling and sometimes painful but, in the end, it will make me a stronger person.
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