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Running can help you cope with grief, loss

By Arianne Brown

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 15 2014 5:20 p.m. MDT

Editor's note: A version of this column written by Arianne Brown was previously published at thespectrum.com.

There are many different reasons why people run.

Many run for the challenge, while others are drawn by the simplicity of running. There are those who run for the social aspect, while others bask in the solitude that time alone on a run can offer.

Many are endorphin-seekers who love starting off their day with the well-known runner's high. For others, time on their feet helps them to cope with stress and even grief and sorrow.

For me, running has meant all of those things over the years. However, it wasn't until 2006 that running became a coping mechanism to help me with a tragedy my family experienced.

In November 2006, after struggling with some difficult challenges, my oldest sister, Megan, took her own life. At the time her life ended, I felt as if a large part of my life had ended, too. I was not prepared for something like this to happen, and I didn't know what to do.

Thinking about her death was hard, let alone talking about it. And contrary to what people told me, time wasn't helping the pain to go away.

About a year after her death, I began to train for a marathon. This was something I had never done before, but I knew I needed to get my mind focused on something.

More than anything, I needed something to help me cope.

At first, I didn't notice a difference, but as the runs began to get longer and more difficult, I began to feel. My mind was able to think, and my body was able to let go of emotions I had held on to so tightly.

I remember one run in particular. I was really struggling to get into a good rhythm, when suddenly, I felt my sister next to me. I imagined her shoulders rubbing mine, like they often did while we would run side by side years ago. I also heard her feet hit the ground — her two steps to my one. And for the next few miles, we ran together.

That feeling came one more time during the last few miles of my first marathon. It was the 2008 St. George Marathon, and it was wet and raining heavily. I had hit the wall and wasn't sure I would be able to finish. The sound of her quick steps and the feeling of her running next to me is what got me across that finish line.

While it is a rarity that I feel her by my side these days, it is running that helps me to cope with her death. The mountain trails give me space to cry if I need to, my body's constant motion lets me feel and let go of emotions I often don't get to feel otherwise and the fresh air allows me to breathe and it clears my head, allowing for room to think about her.

If you have experienced a loss, whether it be a friend, a family member, the loss of a job or dream not reached, heading out for a run may just give you the outlet you need to cope with that loss.

Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running the beautiful trails around Utah. For more articles by her, "like" her Facebook page by searching "A Mother's Write" or visit her blog, timetofititin.com.

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