Updated: May 11
Recently, my gym buddy mentioned that he had experienced a significant loss and was headed to a funeral. As I left the gym, I was contemplating the loss and grief of our loved ones. As my buddy helps me in fitness, I wondered how I could help him process grief. He speaks fluent fitness so I started to mull over it and was stunned to realize that there are many similarities and guidelines that cross over!
1. It takes time!
Attaining your goals in fitness and in grief requires consistency, patience and ...time! It takes time for that gut wrenching, overwhelming wa
ve of grief to reduce in frequency and intensity. Turns out fitness is the same - it takes time for our bodies to heal after a workout and get used to the transformation and growth we are trying to create!
2. You simply cannot rush it
Aligned with the above, you can't rush fitness goals and you simply cannot rush the grief process. Various regions of the brain are affected by grief and in fact research shows that after significant loss, your body releases hormones and chemicals reminiscent of a "fight, flight or freeze" response. And, each day reminders of the loss can trigger this response so the pathways you relied on for activities of daily living can in fact become redirected - contributing to brain fog (it's real!), memory reduction and even difficulty talking about what you're feeling.
3. Not everyone "gets it"
You've no doubt heard that fitness is a "lifestyle" - not everybody gets the fitness lifestyle and, not everyone "gets it" when you're grieving. No two losses can ever be compared. People have unique and elaborate relationships and when one ends the loss cannot be measured or understood, 100%, by any one else. Our experiences of relationships is personal - so too is our grief which can in fact be pretty complex. Feelings of relief and happiness can also be part of a grieving process even if it's not socially appropriate.
4. It hurts
It hurts. Period. Regular fitness can be painful - injuries, callus, losing concentration that fraction of a second causing injury - it can hurt. No pain, no gain likely came from fitness! Well, grief is no different. It hurts. When something that matters to us is no longer available - the pain is real, visceral and felt in many different ways. But just like in fitness, the pain of grief also subsides.
5. Water. Rest. Community.
When going through your fitness regime you no doubt know that drinking enough water, rest days (even active rest days) and having a community that supports you helps you to stay your chosen course. Grief is the same! Continue to sustain with water, rest and a community of chosen support.
6. One breath. One Moment. At a time.
When you're working on a bicep curl you don't try and focus on calves! You focus on your breath, your form and the moment you are in. This is the same in grief. Buck what the world says in terms of how long or even how we are supposed to grieve. It's griever's choice here - take as long as you need, express it in healthy and helpful ways and go gently - one breath and one moment at a time.
7. You can only be where you are.
Multi-tasking when lifting is simply not a good idea. Not unless you're good with a slipped disc or dropping a weight on your foot. You know when exercising it's good to be present and mindful and connected to the moment in which you find yourself. Same thing with grief, when you try to run, hide or distract yourself through the grief you're likely going to cause yourself more pain in a different way - the experience of grief will find you. So, you're better to allow yourself to lean into and experience the ebb and flow of grief.
And, when in doubt or needing support - reach out - there's a team right here to support you!
Our sincere and genuine condolences for your loss,
Farah Kurji and team!
Farah Kurji BSW, MSW, RSW is an advanced level professional counselor specializing in CBT and EMDR. She provides treatment for various mental health conditions including grief, anxiety, depression, and trauma. You can reach her and her team at firstname.lastname@example.org or book HERE
For grief services you can also learn more on our site here: https://www.farahkurji.com/lossandgriefgnf