Category Archives: Grief

Posts that deal with handling grief.

Just a Recovery Run…

My quads are sore! That was the predominant thought on my mind as my feet hit the floor at 5AM yesterday morning. It was time for my post-race recovery run. I was headed to run with the tri group. I knew I needed to do it, but it sure didn’t sound fun. My legs were sore after all from the general thrashing I gave them on Saturday during the race. Its just a recovery run I thought. No biggie. Not much to learn here. Hobble through, move on.

As we started off at a very easy pace I figured we would go for 15-20 minutes and turn around for an easy 3 to maybe 3.5 miles. Left to my own devices I would have put in two miles and called it good. But each of us had raced 70.3 miles over the weekend and we had stories to share. Trotting along at a slow gate, our breath was easy and we chatted it up. Next thing I knew it was time to turn around.

“Wait, we’re at the low water crossing?! This is 2.5 miles in. That means a five mile recovery run! I’m gonna pay for this!” We had gone much farther than I expected. I actually felt good. The longer I ran, the better I felt.

I woke up this morning and my quads were almost entirely pain free. Wow! It worked! The five miles actually paid off; they didn’t cost me!

Three years into endurance sports and I’m still learning, still growing. I’ll tuck this nugget of experience away for future post-race and heavy training session recovery. Go a little farther than you think you need. Do it with friends if possible.

Sounds like grief recovery too! The emotions and body are often frayed and worn down after a significant loss. There will be a recovery period. There needs to be a recovery period. The pace needs to be slower, and it probably needs to go longer than you thought. But you’ll survive. Yes, its painful to work those exposed nerves and broken hearts, that’s why you need a friend along for support, but there’s healing on the other side.

Its a choice. How you live each day is a choice. You don’t have to work on those broken and injured spots. But if you just bury the pain, it can’t ever come out and leave you free to live and thrive again.

Yeah, it was just a recovery run. Right.

Down The Rabbit Hole – Three Years Later

While yesterday was a day of wonderful memories, today marks three years from the day we received Kristi’s breast cancer diagnosis. I remember the phone call vividly. The solemn monotone of the doctor, the look in Kristi’s eyes, the immediate tightness in my gut. Here’s the post about that day. My first post.

I’m encouraged as I read that post that even on day one I was looking to work with my Father above to bring about good in the situation. Boy has that turned out differently than I thought, planned or desired.

I didn’t realize it then, but grief arrived that very day. I didn’t know it was grief, but it was. We were planning to go out on an anniversary dinner, eighteen years plus one day late. Since we already had the children looked after we went to dinner anyway, just so we could process the news. It was a miserable affair. Without knowing anything about how serious her fight would become, that phone call ripped joy and peace right out from under us. We sat and stared at each other, pushing our food around our plates, appetites gone. We mumbled to each other, our breath too weak to form words properly. We stared blankly at the waitress, her cheery words falling on wan smiles.

It fundamentally altered our marriage. She became the patient and I became the caregiver. All those changes brought grief. Grief of days wasted, time lost, changed roles, new responsibilities and so many more changes, little and big that are in the rabbit hole of fighting cancer.

I was determined that it wouldn’t define our relationship. We would beat it and move on. Living and loving each other more deeply for the scare she’d had. Nope. Didn’t work out that way either. And yet, by giving vent and voice to the grief over the years I’ve been able to let it flow on by. Feel it, own it, experience it and let it go. It will come again. That’s cool. I’ll dance with it again and then send it on down the line once more.

And in the letting go of grief, love remains. Life remains. Cancer hasn’t defined our relationship. We fought to make our marriage great for 19 years and three months and we succeeded. Cancer didn’t change that.

But the premature end of Kristi’s life has put a spotlight on how precious each day is that remains. My goal is still the same as it was on 18+1, three years ago today. Labor in love with my Heavenly Father to bring about all manner of good in this life.

Don’t avoid your grief. That will derail you. Meet it head-on. Let it come. Experience it. Soul-shaking sobs. Heart-rending cries. Whatever it takes. So you can let it go. So Love can remain.

“Now these three remain, Faith, Hope and Love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13


Taking Steps

As I climbed out of the pool after this morning’s training session I thought, “Man, my shoulders are worked!” On the way home I could feel the tiredness seeping into my entire body. “I shouldn’t feel this tired after 3100 yards. Fatigued yes, but tired like I want to go to sleep for hours? Nope.” 

After devouring my three-egg omelet I was still feeling as wilted as the spinach I had just cooked. Hmm. I don’t think this chest cold has truly gone away. So I called and managed to get an afternoon appointment with our family doc. He heard the wheezing in my lungs and ordered a chest X-ray to make sure I don’t have pneumonia or any pre-cursor to it.

My first triathlon of 2015 is in two and a half weeks. I need to be better by then. So I’m taking steps now to deal with this. Prayers are fully welcome!

Grief isn’t an illness or disease, but it can sure take you out of your normal routine and cause significant fatigue. To thrive again after loss, make sure to take steps now to deal with your grief. Don’t stuff it, ignore it or pretend you’re good and don’t need to grieve. Talk it out, write it out, get active! Pray. Rest. Take time to nuture your emotions and spirit. You’ll be back on your game soon enough. Give yourself time and grace.


What She Said Shocked Me, What I said In Response Brought Her To Tears…

I volunteered to help with an event for my son’s class at school today. Afterwards I was visiting with another parent and she asked if I was from California. “Born in Austin, but grew up in Northern California.” I answered, wondering if she knew or cared about the difference between NorCal and SoCal.

“Me too.” She responded.

Oh, this might actually be interesting. “Where?”

When “Grass Valley” left her lips, you could have picked my mouth up off the floor. “No way!” Was all I could muster in response.

“Why?” She probed.

“I graduated from Nevada Union High.” I was grinning now. Joyfully shocked to be in the presence of someone who not only knew Grass Valley, but understood that living back on Retrac Way off Lime Kiln Road meant I lived in the sticks!

“Bear River!” She pointed to herself.

“That’s where my sister graduated! Wait, did you go to Magnolia Intermediate then?”


“Unbelievable! We grew up in the same town, went to the same Jr. High and you and my sister went to the same high school and elementary school as well!”

With that exchange, we were off to the races, talking about rural, foothill life from a backwater corner of California. As we relived memories and shared how we each made it to Texas, recent history cropped up and in the rapid fire course of catching up, I told her about Kristi’s illness and subesquent death. She was stunned. Tears immediately flooded her eyes and the conversation halted abruptly until she could gather her composure. I consoled her and assured her that her emotion was appreciated in that it was heartfelt.

I didn’t realize she didn’t know our circumstance. I can’t keep track of who knows and who doesn’t anymore. But when I come across someone who doesn’t know, it of course brings it all back to the front. And there it’s stayed for the rest of the day. I left the school and went to take care of some shopping. As I slipped the key in the ignition, the thought, “She’s not here anymore.” went through my head. That’s why you’re going shopping. That’s why you were at the school this morning. That’s why your kids are in school. And so it rolls.

I remember the shock and fog of the first few months. All those thoughts cascading through my brain would threaten to overwhelm my emotional control and I’d be on the brink of shutdown. I’d clinch my eyes tightly but the tears would flow anyway. How was I going to do this? Could I do it? Training was a real salvation in those days. I could let my emotions and brain rest while I pushed my physical limits.

Today, I have to say that by the time I got into the store, I was focused on finding what I needed and getting home before the kids. Its the new normal. It still feels different, its not even a two year old normal. Every day I’m reminded of the new normal. In ways big and small. I can’t escape it. But here it is. And I realize I have license to decide what to do with this normal. Waste it with “what ifs” or “only ifs”? Or live it. The agency to act is mine. I choose life.

To Share or Not to Share

Share your story with others. When you find someone with whom it resonates, you’re on the way to building a new friendship. Sound daunting? It might be the first time you try. And the second. But if you keep putting it out there, you’ll keep finding people who connect with it…and you. And your life will have expanded. God’s best gifts are people. You know that. Its why you’ve dealt with so much pain. Losing the greatest gift you’ve ever had likely shattered not only your heart but your dreams as well. You have a choice:

Go into self-protect mode and reduce the connections you have. But staking out a territory to guard inevitably turns into a zero-sum game. Folks figure out pretty quickly they’re not welcome. As a result you end up alone.

Or you go on the offensive. Share, connect and seek to enlarge your territory. You won’t be a fit with everyone, but that’s alright. You’ll be surprised at how many do connect with you. With every connection you’re enriching yourself with another of God’s gifts.

What’s your story? Go on, share it!

Should You Pull The Trigger?

In less than twenty-four hours my father and I board the plane in Romania and head for home. Its been a fantastic week. New friendships started, old friends greeted, new foods eaten, lives shared, encouragement given and received for the journey ahead. As I prepare to leave, I find myself energized and expectant about the future.

Three years ago I was in the same position. My father and I had just completed a similar trip to Romania. I returned home full of excitement about what was to come. One month later, Kristi was diagnosed with cancer and we were plunged down the rabbit hole that is cancer treatment. Expectation was thwarted, dreams crushed and hope smothered.

That was an awful time, not so far removed that the emotions are deeply buried. It doesn’t require much effort to dig them up. If I wanted. But I choose not to. I choose to not burden this experience in Romania with the negative events that followed my last visit. “You are wise, Chad. You would be foolish to live in such a way.” I can hear the comments now. But that choice wasn’t automatic or quick. Loss and grief of this magnitude color all your decisions.

Obviously this trip has brought to mind the previous one and the events that followed. Its been a natural trigger. I knew it would be before I even agreed to come. I knew I’d be faced with this situation again. But rather than cowering in fear of what comes next, I’ve chosen to walk through this trip and the events that follow with expectation of a different outcome.

When dealing with loss and grief, you encounter trigger events all the time. As I wrote here, many of those events are little things that surprise you. You have two choices when you encounter trigger events, especially those you see coming: Avoid or Embrace

Avoidance can be especially helpful, especially when the grief or loss is fresh. I took my children and skipped out on the usual Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations the first year by going to the other side of the world. We still celebrated but in a way that was so new and unique that it didn’t drag us through all the emotions and pain we were still processing.

But this year I embraced all the holiday celebrations. We fully decorated the house, even doing it before Thanksgiving. There were many trigger events throughout the season that I had to wade through and process. But I was prepared this year and we had a wonderful time together as a family. Poignant with loss yes, but filled with joy nevertheless.

As you approach an event that you know is going to trigger feelings of grief and loss, ask yourself, “Is it OK to pull this trigger?” “Am I ready for this?” There’s no shame in saying no. Its your call. Don’t feel obligated to move forward when you’re not yet ready. The time will come. You’ll know it. And then you can pull the trigger, step into the event and live. If you’re not there yet, know that the day will come. There is hope.

If you’re trapped in fear of trigger events, avoiding them at all costs, and have been stuck there for a while with avoidance your only coping tool, try some training. You’ll be amazed at how good a brisk walk, bike ride or jog will make you feel. You’ll feel better prepared to face those events and pull that trigger to get life moving again.


On Being OK with Being OK

As we finished up a family devotional time yesterday morning, it came up in the conversation that it has been eighteen months since their mother died. My ever-energetic eleven year old son shouted, “Best eighteen months ever!”

I grinned. But inside I thought, “Hmm, should I be OK with that? Am I OK with that? Shouldn’t he be devastated, heartbroken, weepy and desperate to see and hug his mother?” But I’ve worked hard over the last year and a half to connect with my children and make sure they understand that they are OK and that life hasn’t stopped for them. Certainly not to forget their mother, but to know that she wanted them to keep living. So I was stoked to hear his spur of the moment judgement.

But there you have it. The seeming dichotomy of grief and life. Oh he misses his mother. He tells me that often, usually at bedtime when he also whispers that I’m the most important person in the world to him. But at the same time he’s been able to keep living life. He’s been able to keep living because I’ve chosen to keep living.

And being OK with being OK is a big step and big part of the choice to keep living life fully and fulfilled. If you’re not there yet, I understand. But know that you don’t have to throw a wet blanket on your life with feelings of remorse or regret at being OK.

I remember the first day where I thought, “Today was OK. It wasn’t horrible. I made it to the end.” It was weird. Once that thought was out there, the questions immediately hit me: “Is it OK to be OK?” “Is this somehow downplaying my grief?” “Am I belittling the love that Kristi and I shared for two decades?”

Yes, No and No.

Give yourself permission to be OK.

This Deserves A Response

Another benefit to letting go of your anger is you’ll find space to respond to life instead of reacting. A response is driven by thought, faith, and deliberation. A reaction is driven by emotion. Rarely will you regret your responses. However reactions, especially those driven by anger, are often embarrassing and hurtful.

Navigating widowerhood demands a continuous string of responses throughout each day. Life does. But when you’ve been used to sharing the burden of those responses with your wife and she’s no longer there, having to handle them all alone seems daunting, overwhelming and impossible. It tires you out.

Trust me, choosing to react rather than respond will only magnify the burden of choices flowing your direction. And yes, its a choice. Anger is a choice. Many people employ it as a tool in relationships. I’ve found it to yield the poorest long term benefit. But that’s another discussion for another day.

Again, if anger is your go-to coping mechanism, you need to Take Time To Train. #4T. I’ll keep saying it, and don’t mind being stuck on the “Repeat Continuously” setting. Its a key component in living Fit, Faithful and Fulfilled. Anger will derail you. Choose to respond. That’s an action that’s fit for a widower.

A Bitter Pill

Perpetually pissed. That’s how bitterness strikes me. When grief first gripped me, right at the start of Kristi’s battle with cancer, I was seriously angry. I yelled on the phone and in person with numerous friends both brave and gracious enough to let me vent. I yelled often during Kristi’s fifteen month battle. Never in her presence, or the children either. Sometimes while running, often while driving. I raged at the helplessness I experienced. I ragged on the process and the treatment my precious wife had to endure. Our life was forever changed and that wasn’t fair. I was pissed.

I get mad quickly, heat flushing my cheeks. But neither do I hold on to anger; I let it go after it runs its course. I realized early on that I was going to have to keep flushing the anger through. Not to deny it or hide it, but let it out in a safe place so I could get back to supporting Kristi and our children. I found solace in long runs, swims and bikes. I could rage while alone if needed. More often I could simply channel the frustration of setbacks into my workout of the day, bleeding off the negative emotions and releasing positive energy that helped fuel me for the long road ahead.

With so many tasks requiring 100% of my time and focus, I knew I didn’t have the energy to remain angry all the time. Being bitter just takes too much effort. It steals what precious reserves of energy I have while robbing me of the emotional sense needed to connect with my children.

Bitterness is a choice. You don’t have to live there. Its not dishonoring to your wife to let go of the anger. And if anger is the only engine that drives your daily living, its going to be a lonely journey, much lonelier than it has to be. Try training. And try this short prayer:

“God, I’m always angry. Its killing my energy, emotions and relationships. I want to let it go, but don’t know how. Would you take this from me, please? Thanks.”

Peace to you my friends.

PS- Be encouraged, if you repeatedly let the anger go, I have found it stops returning after time. I don’t get angry anymore about my situation. I look for joy and a reason to smile each day.

Don’t Be Afraid

…to talk about your wife, especially if you have children. My youngest was barely seven when Kristi died. But he was only five when she was diagnosed with cancer. He can’t remember what he had for breakfast, let alone remember what his mom was like, especially before she got sick.

It breaks my heart that most of his memories of her are from fighting cancer. Every once in a while though he’ll come up with a memory from earlier. So I don’t try to stop the other three from talking about Kristi. They need to remember her as well.

I don’t try and force it either, I just let it come naturally. When one of them does something or says something or gives me a look that comes from Kristi, I let them know. Yes, of course it reminds me that she isn’t here any more. But dealing with loss is part of the landscape now. In fact I just posted about it a couple of weeks ago here.

Keep talking about your wife. Its important in the grieving and healing process. God knows. And you’ll find He provides the strength to do it.

New Year, New Choice

Never been big on resolutions. But in this new phase of life, you have to make some hard choices. The last eighteen months have been filled with choices I never thought I’d have to make. What’s for dinner? Do I let my daughter wear that outfit? Does it matter that my little boy’s socks don’t match? Paper or plastic?

More weighty though: How do I help my children remember their mother? Is it OK for them to see me laughing? Is it alright to be excited about something in life? I’m crying, should I let my friends see me? My children?

The new year is here and I remember this time last year. It was just six months since I’d lost Kristi. Those six months had been a blur. I knew that with the new year, the reality of surviving alone would envelope me. The thought, the reality was intimidating. The grief, the pain, the loneliness, the confusion was all waiting. But I knew I couldn’t hide from it. I had to go through it.

Instead of trying to dodge it, I made a choice to let life come and move forward through it. I made a choice to not hide. I made a choice to feel so that I could heal.

You have a choice to make. Do you hide from the pain and the loss or do you move through it? Let it come and then let it go? “Man up”, “Be Strong” and “Hang tough” all sound well and good. But if it means stuffing your emotions and letting them go unacknowledged and bottled up, then you’re heading for rough waters. Those emotions will out at some point.

Do you want to let them out when they’re fresh and new and running freely? Or do you relish waiting until they’re old, festered and full of pus?

Its a new year. You have a choice. You always have a chance to make a new one. Embrace life. The highs and lows. It’ll heal you faster.

Sometimes Its the Little Things

that get you. You steel yourself against the expected onslaught of grief for major events: anniversary, birthdays, holidays. But for me, especially at the start, it was really simple things…like adding paper to the printer for the first time. Or changing the air filters in the house. I would find myself momentarily undone by everyday tasks and wonder, hmm, am I always going to be a basket case like this?

I think it was the fact that these little things marked the passage of time, marked time without Kristi. They were sign-posts I couldn’t avoid, from which there was no escape. Other times the tasks were ones that Kristi handled around the house. Now they fell to me. And in the doing, I was reminded of her absence and the void would reveal itself once more. That aching, empty void. That cold side of the bed.

But as those tasks repeated themselves, became my tasks and part of the new normal and the new me, the ache has lessened. The void isn’t as terrifying as it was at the start. Of course, just allowing myself to be ok with a new normal and new me was a battle too. You don’t want there to be a new normal. Or a new me. For a long while, you just want the old me back.

Dealing with Kristi’s cancer for fifteen months actually made the transition to widowerhood a little less traumatic in the sense that our old selves and relationship and identity disappeared the day we received Kristi’s diagnosis. We were fighting grief alongside cancer, right from the get go. So when I transitioned from care-giver to widower, grief wasn’t a new companion, just different and more intense.

Through it all, I trained. A blessed constant for me in a sea of change was Taking Time To Train. There’s that 4T principle. I wouldn’t have made the time though if I hadn’t been signed up for an event or a race. Once I was committed to a race, I found the time and motivation to train. And because endurance sports require some planning to make sure I was ready, I found myself setting and meeting goals in order to make it to race day. When life was spinning me around, and I was unable to muster the desire to move forward in my new life, I was still moving forward in my training. That was a slice of sanity. A small price for some peace and progress in my life.

If you find yourself put off kilter by the little things, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Let the grief come and then let it go. In the mean time, hit the road or the trail or the pool and train! At least three days per week, for a minimum of 45 minutes per training session. Trust me, it’ll help.