Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday's Therapy - (From 8 Things Learned about Grief of a Grieving Parent) Five -Exercise

Thursday's Therapy



A TCF Speech – 8 Things I’ve Learned About the Grief of a Grieving Parent

Part Five of Eight

Sunday, July 6, 2003 - TCF National Conference

Closing Speech by Charlie Walton

Part Five


Number five is something that gets really mixed reactions when I say it to people. When you are grieving, I think there is no such thing as "too much physical exercise." I am not a doctor, and I am not advocating that folks with weak hearts become rock climbers, but my experience and my observation has been that... when it comes to clearing your mind... there is nothing quite so therapeutic as soaking your clothes with your own sweat.

I am not saying that exercise takes away the pain of grief. I am saying that, after you rake leaves until you drop, or drag your weary body around the block, or pump that stationary bicycle that's gathering dust in the garage, and after you have a quick shower and towel dry, and then sit down to rest, that's when your mind can get a clear fix on which parts of the hurting were emotional... and which were just from sitting too many hours, popping too many pain pills, drinking too many relaxers, or eating too many servings of tuna casserole just because somebody stuck another plate in front of you.

It is unfortunate that our modern conveniences have stolen away from us the physical exertions that used to be part of death. I was in a small town in Honduras when a beloved woman of the village died of cancer. It gave me a chance to see how things used to occur in our country a hundred years ago. Some of that lady's relatives had to swing a pick and shovel to dig a grave. Othrs had to borrow a truck to go buy a casket from the local wood craftsman. Lots of activities had to be done in a hurry since embalming was not an option there. The funeral service was late that night. Many people stayed all night at the house. The burial was the next morning. There was physical work to be accomplished, work that helped people get physically tired, to feel like they were helping, to pay tribute to the life that had ended. I think we lost a lot when the backhoes and funeral directors started doing everything for us.

Another thing that strenuous exercise will do is get you so physically tired that your body will finally take you to sleep, even while your mind is still feeling that you ought to observe an all night vigil.

Sleep is as important as exercise. Neither one is easy during grief, but you can make your reluctant body exercise, and that can make your reluctant mind sleep.

Sometimes it's important to trick yourself to get started. Some days, when I really don't feel like going to the gym, I tell myself, "Okay, look, I'll just go in and do a few really easy things, just a little physical activity, maybe walk around the track a couple of times." But, once I am there and doing a few easy things, the blood starts to circulate and the joints start to warm up, and before long, I am having a good workout.

I know you feel lousy. I know you can't get a full breath, and your heart hurts, but trick yourself into exercising and see if it doesn't help.

One thing I would add to that: I have found that exercises I do alone work better during times of grief. I don't want the complications of dealing with other people during grief. So, I would recommend leaving off tennis... and golf, and any other activity where you have a weapon in your hand when there is pain in your heart.

You don't need a social experience. You just need to move the large muscles of your body until you sweat... until you sweat a lot, and get so physically tired that it becomes very clear where your body ends, and your grief begins.


Harriet Hodgson who lost her own daughter shares with us in an ezine article, “Regular Exercise May Help You Cope with Grief”:

I had been on a walking program for years. After my daughter was killed in a car crash and my father-in-law succumbed to pneumonia I walked occasionally. Then my brother died and my walking program came to a halt. This was too bad, because exercise has many benefits.

Mayo Clinic describes these benefits in a Web site article, "Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms." According to Mayo, exercise boosts confidence, distracts from anxiety and depression, gets you out and about, and helps you cope. Exercise is also beneficial to mental health. "A growing volume of research shows that exercise can also help improve symptoms of certain medical conditions such as depression and anxiety," the article says. Even short exercise spurts -- just 10-15 minutes -- can improve your mood.

Hodgson goes on to share

Grief expert Therese A. Rando talks about exercise in her book, How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies. Rando thinks exercise helps to reduce the aggressive feelings associated with grief.

Harriet B. Braiker, PhD, author of Getting Up When You're Feeling Down, sees a relationship between physical and psychological fitness. We need to schedule activities for both, she says, but should not over-schedule our time. "On the other hand, don't be so easy on yourself that you revert to old habits . . . "


New Leaf Resources shares

Take Care of Yourself.

Have compassion and take care of yourself. Eat properly. Get enough rest. Exercise. Grief causes tremendous stress on your body. It affects even the strongest immune system. You may catch more colds, experience headaches or muscle aches. Taking care of yourself is more important now than ever before. You might try some deep breathing exercises or relaxation techniques. You can find relaxation tapes at a library or book store.


Mayo Clinic encourages healthy habits amidst grief as well:

Coping with grief and loss tip: Take care of yourself

When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time.

Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.

Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. (As we discussed last week!) Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life; or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to him or her.

Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.


Even as we grieve the terrible loss of each precious child, may we learn to take better care of ourselves…

I forget to exercise. I forget to take my vitamins. And I definitely struggle with getting a good night’s sleep…

But after three months of required physical therapy to rehabilitate after breaking several bones...I am left feeling stronger, better rested, and more encouraged as I walk through my grief.

Together may we encourage one another not only to grieve out our grief, but daily to love and care for ourselves better as well,

Harriet Hodgson:
New Leaf Resources:
Mayo Clinic:


No comments:

Post a Comment