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Grief is omnipotent

When we feel tremendously alone, we check in online to vent about our demons. Everyone grieves differently, we know this, we understand this yet we all connect through grief.

Some people grieve by going out, some grieve by self-medicating, while others grieve by becoming reclusive, many grieve by fleeing, a few becoming more active with health and exercising, and then some grieve through self-destruction. However, we all connect because at some point, we may have had those thoughts too.

But did you know grief also weakens our bodies because of the increase in cortisone levels?

It should come as no surprise that cortisone is released when we are under stress. But the problem is when you’re transitioning from wife to widow those high levels cortisone wreaks havoc and weakens our bodies.

Cortisone is a hormone released from our adrenal glands which basically is connected to our fight or flight response. Eventually cortisone should level off, but in the case of grief, it can last for months even years. High levels of cortisone in the blood can impact the effectiveness of white blood cells and falter our immune system and leave us more prone to infection.

Research has showed prolonged grief is also connected to increased physical pain, increased blood pressure and frequent clots, appetite loss, and can even cause the heart chambers to balloon (also known as broken heart syndrome). Grief is not just an emotional response it is also a physical one.

You may not realize it, but signing up for the Widows for Hope Virtual 5k will benefit your health.

So are you ready to learn why incorporating exercise can help heal your mind, body and spirit?

1.) Fertilizes your brain:

When you engage in exercise a protein WITHIN your nerve cells, BDNF, is produced. This is so cool, because BDNF helps the function of neurons and the helps grow new neurons so your brain works better. We all have had it, widow brain is real.

But BDNF has been connected to improved memory, it’s a natural anti-depressant and combats anxiety. It also helps lower your stress levels, because right when you engage in something to elevate your heart rate for a length of time, BDNF is released.

2.) Greater frequency of more pleasant feelings:

Exercise can help assist in creating that elusive feeling of happiness. If your brain is improving because of the increased BDNF that means your neurons are strong and your brain receptors at the synapses are signaling for those neurotransmitters to be received. And those beautiful compounds connected to good overall feelings, dopamine and serotonin, they are zipping around and giving you a full overall sense of happiness and pleasant feelings.

3.) Gives you something to look forward to, helps learn to set and achieve goals:

When you’re in the depths of grief, getting out of bed becomes a task because your previous life and routine has been obliterated. But incorporating physical activity allows for a new routine to be established. The best way to do this is by writing down your goal. Keeps an individual accountable, and by writing it down it gives a visual cue to the brain and helps internalize the importance of that goal. If you see it you can achieve it.

Most common excuse for not writing a goal:

  • Fear of failure

So don’t let fear control you, write it down and hang it on your bathroom mirror: July 29th Widows of Hope 5k

4.) Realizing your strength:

Okay, so yes exercising strengthens your brain function and it will also strengthen your heart so it can deliver oxygen to your cells. Which means it can improve your lung function too. Improves bone density and builds muscles— yes yes yes—we know this, we were taught this in school.

But you know what I believe exercise provides to widows and widowers? The strength to push forward. You’ve already have gone through the worst possible thing that can happen in this lifetime, and now it’s time to listen to that little voice inside of us that keeps whispering you are worth it. Allow that inner voice to start screaming as you put one foot in front of the other and start believing that you are capable of enjoying all the opportunities and beauty this world has to offer.

5.) The ability to accept:

You feel alone. An overwhelming feel that is so crippling you don’t know how to cope with it and the thoughts. Running is lonely too. It’s an activity you can do alone. And you can’t fail at it. Because when you’re alone, no one can judge you, no one can criticize whether you’re doing it wrong. Because you’re doing it alone. Grab your baggage of thoughts and begin sorting through it when you venture into your own world moving along the side walk at your pace. The companionship of solitude can stanch the flow of hurt after losing a loved one. The feeling of pride as you pull yourself up to the top of the hill can provide a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Dancing in a world that only you can understand and is away from those who might not get it, you begin to accept the rapid change of life after loss.


5 Week Beginners Guide to July 29th:

[disclaim]Be safe, be realistic, and mindful about where you are regarding your fitness level and health. Talk to your physician if you are unsure if you should be participating in strenuous exercise.[/disclaim]

Week One: Begin fertilizing your brain by walking 3 days a week for 15-20 minutes.

Week Two: Write down some of those pleasant thoughts you have on those walks. And then when you feel daring, 2 days of the 3, begin jogging for 30 seconds, walk for 2 minutes, repeat 8 times. (20 minutes total)

Week Three: Write down your nonstop jogging goal. For example: I want to run for 5 minutes without stopping. Hang your goal on your bathroom mirror.

  1. First workout: Jog at your pace for 3 minutes. Walk for 3 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (30 minutes)
  2. Second workout: Jog for 4 minutes, walk for 2 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (30 minutes)
  3. Third workout: Walk for 2 minutes, jog for 3 minutes. Repeat 5 times, EXCEPT on the final jog, go until you cannot go anymore (be close to your house)

Week Four: Begin to raise your eyes to what is going around you. Begin to count the number of dogs you pass, count how many cars pass by, begin to let the light in as your eyes become wider.

  1. First workout: 10 minute jog, 5 minute walk, 10 minute jog, 5 minute walk (how far did you go?)
  2. Second workout: Walk for 45 minutes
  3. Third workout: Jog for 1/4 mile, walk for 1/4 mile, Jog for 1/4 mile, Walk for 1/4 mile, Jog for 1/4 Mile, Walk for 1/2 Mile, Jog for 1/4 Mile (2 miles)
  4. Fourth workout: Jog until you cannot go any longer (how far did you go?)

Week Five: Make the best 1 hour work out mix, take all those thoughts, and hit the road and embrace the streamline of thoughts passing throughout your brain.

  1. First workout: Jog 1/2 Mile, walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, Walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, walk 1/4 (3 miles)
  2. Second workout: 45 minute walk
  3. Third workout: 1 mile jog
  4. Fourth workout: Virtual 5k DAY- sign up here:

If you want a more concise guide or fit tips, please email me at


Julia lost her husband in 2013 to a rare liver cancer when she was 28 years old. In the months and years afterwards, Julia continues to use her grief into a positive lifestyle change. She has been involved in NCAA Athletics for 14 years, and has continued to document her fitness, athletic and grief journey in her heartbreaking and honest blog The Unwanted W. Julia's journey has been featured in US Lacrosse Magazine, SoulCycle, and The Guardian. She currently writes for an online fitness and nutrition journal and works as a professional fitness instructor in Navarre, FL.

To contact Julia, please visit her website or visit her Instagram for health tips at @juliasteiercoaching