Married to the Grief

The difficult detail when explaining yourself on days when grief appears is figuring out where to start. I was married but now I’m not. Or am I? He died three and a half years ago, so I’m not. But for others, it’s a judgment only one person can truly make. No one else has the ability to determine what amount of time is appropriate. I’m not married, however, I’m married to the grief.

To get this squared away, I hear voices. But I’m not crazy. It’s not the kind of voices that will tell me to grab a chainsaw and knock on my neighbor’s door. The voice is comforting. More like petting-the-dog-kind of comfort. On the 4th of July, I made the mistake of signing up for a race which begins at the base of a mountain. Recalling that race makes my legs shiver with pain. It’s comparable to going on one too many dates with someone when you know damn well it wasn’t going to work after the first outing together. A week later, I’m still recovering from that race.

As all 600 runners funneled toward the starting line, I weaved towards the front. My heart ascended towards my throat in anticipation for the race to begin. But as I was fumbling with my headphones, I hear the voice. Like the breeze cutting through your jacket on a crisp cool evening, chills traveled from my scalp to my toes. I haven’t heard this voice in quite some time, and there’s no mistaking it, it sounded like my husband. And he told me to get a chainsaw… Just kidding. He always had a sweet tonal melody to his voice, and it grabbed ahold of me. I looked around but then the race to the top of the mountain began. Before grief could bludgeon me I ran away with tears filling my eyes, but not enough to budge from the pool at the bottom of my eyelids.

I struggle with grief every day. It hugs me so closely you would never know. But I see it every time I look in the mirror. My scars from the loss are in the muscles of my arms, the knots in my back, the callouses on my feet. But as time has pushed forward, I’ve become used to the undercurrent of sadness. Grief has wrapped around my bones, and woven in between my cartilage and soft tissues, and has become a part of my life force like the oxygen in my capillaries.

But once in awhile, I hear his voice or a memory flows through my skull like an electric current igniting a cataclysmic landmine. Destroying my livelihood unexpectedly until I fall face first into my hands echoing the shrills of Nancy Kerrigan “Why? Why?”

Grief strips you of your identity. Takes your soul and crumples it up then proceeds to uncrumple it then sends it through a paper-shredder just so it can crumple every little part of you that still exists. But the deciding moment happens when there’s a choice to tape the pieces together or remain in pieces.

Grief can become an opiate too. Becoming addicted to the grief and the identity it provides in life after loss. And grief is addicting! My grief has become the coal fueling the engine. I’m doing things I didn’t think were capable or in the realm of possibility.

How we use our grief and value it is judgment we all must make at some point in our widowhood.

Remember on July 29th

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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