I Made It – How Completing an Endurance Event is Similar to My Grief Journey
I’ve been remembering and reflecting upon the all female GORUCK Light event that I participated in nearly a year ago. Part of my “why” for doing these crazy events has always been my two babies who died. Until now I’ve never really thought about how completing an endurance event is similar to my grief journey.
completing an Endurance Event is Similar to grief
September 28, 2019 – I stood waiting to receive my patch for completing the all female GORUCK Light. In front of me the sun was setting over the Ohio River. It was a beautiful sight. As I waited, one thought entered my mind and that one thought brought on a flood of emotions. By the time Cadre Belman stood in front of me to hand me my patch the tears were streaming down my face. The thought that caused me to ugly cry on the cadre’s shoulder after he gave me my patch- “I made it.”
That thought went way deeper than making it through the event. The tears didn’t fall uncontrollably because I rucked some miles, carried some heavy stuff, and suffered through some bear crawls. In that moment I was standing in the truth that I made it through hell and was still standing.
It has been said that signing up for an event is the hardest part. I’m not sure about other GRT’s, but for me signing up is the easy part. Actually showing up is hard. There are always obstacles to face when training for and participating in events. As a wife and mom, my biggest obstacle is the time training and events take away from my family.
Showing up for this event came with its own challenges. Where would the kids stay while Keith was at work? Could we afford the expenses that come with an out of state event? After slacking in my rucking and workout routines, was I physically prepared to complete the event? Anxiety had also reared its ugly head in the weeks leading up to the event.
Nevertheless, everything was settled and I made the drive to Louisville.
Hearing a doctor say, “It’s not good.” was not the hardest part of my grief journey. Neither was making the impossible decision to end my son’s life. Being wheeled into the operating room with tears streaming down my face and the physical pain that followed the procedure wasn’t the hardest part either.
Those things were all difficult, but the hardest part of my grief journey is showing up for life. Choosing to show up for my life and live it abundantly rather than just survive each day is the hardest part. It really is a choice – living abundantly – and many days a difficult one.
On the morning of the event, I drove into Louisville for breakfast and then found a Starbucks for some coffee. As I was driving back to the hotel I observed the most beautiful sunrise. Then I was confronted with a protest outside an abortion clinic. The protesters were holding huge signs with graphic images of unborn babies. I was immediately triggered. I made a wrong turn and had to circle the block. The protesters were all along the perimeter of the block.
Tears started flowing. I felt sick to my stomach. I started shaking.
When I got back to the hotel I sat in the parking lot and called Keith. Many people do not understand the things that trigger me and take me back to the worst day of my life. He is the only person who comes close to understanding.
As I later wrote in my journal:
“I was now going into the event with a hurting heart, along with all the other stuff I came in with.”
My grief journey started on May 7, 2012 with a hurting heart, along with all the other stuff I carried.
The Work and the People Who Help Along the Way
Every GORUCK event requires work. Some of it is physical and a lot of it is mental. In every GORUCK event I have received help and support that has helped pull me through to make it to the end. Some went out of their way to get me through.
Carmela came beside me as I was struggling through bear crawls and did them with me. Katie encouraged me to keep going as we carried the 80 pound sandbags until we made it to the end of the pedestrian bridge. Tara listened as I shared about my babies without the platitudes that usually come after I share my story.
Others helped get me through without even knowing – with a smile or a nod or a “good job” made in passing. And whomever took that 80 pound sandbag from me when we got to the end of the bridge really helped me out. Other people are necessary to make it through events – it’s about the team.
Grief also requires work. Some of it is physical and a lot of it is mental. There have been many people along the journey who have helped me, knowingly and unknowingly. People sent cards and visited and prayed. Other loss moms have shared their stories. There are listening ears. There are those who remember my babies and call them by name, knowing that a loss mama’s deepest fear is that people will forget. Other people are necessary on the journey through grief.
After I got home I wrote about the event in my journal so I wouldn’t forget anything.
It was amazing and very emotional. It was awesome being surrounded by so many strong, encouraging women. I went into the weekend feeling defeated, tired, and weak with very little confidence. I left feeling refreshed, strong, and joy-filled, with the confidence to face the hard stuff.
Every GORUCK event I have completed has left me with more confidence, which spurs me to become stronger, train harder, and try more challenging things.
Each year that passes where I choose to show up for life instead of just survive also gives me more confidence to face difficult times head on and fight for joy.
So that’s how completing an endurance event is similar to my grief journey. Yes, I do these events to challenge myself, to become stronger, to be better than I was the day before, to learn, and to meet new people. They also serve as a reminder that I made it. I survived my worst day. The hell on Earth I endured did not take me down. And I didn’t just survive, I chose to show up for my life and live it abundantly.
May you choose to do the same when life gets difficult.
Photo credits: Emily McCarthy and GORUCK