Running, Friendship, Love and Helping a Sole Sister Through Grief

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Sole Sisters…Runner Girls…we met 11 years ago training for marathons with Team In Training.  We showed up every Saturday morning to join the group for long runs.  We came from very different backgrounds.  We probably never would have met and become friends any other way.  Running was our common (and probably only) bond.  But, running wasted no time in bringing us all together 🙂

Those long miles gave us plenty of time together.  We quickly got through the small talk.  When we ran, we talked about life….work, husbands, dogs, cats, children, vacations, things that excited us, things that worried us…it was our therapy.  When we were together for other reasons, we talked about running 🙂  Races, paces, sore muscles, stretching, foam rolling, energy gels, bathroom stories, sneakers, headbands, sports bras, underwear, clothing, chafing, body glide, GPS watches, ice baths, injuries, chiropractors, massages, personal training and more.

Through the years, we have laughed, cried, inspired, held each other accountable, celebrated birthdays, shared clothes, smiled, hugged, group texted (which led to the word “hugs” auto-correcting to “jigs” once….and now jigs is forever in our runner girl vocabulary), shared gallons of sweat and peed in many bushes together.  We have eaten cake, cupcakes, chocolate, egg sandwiches and so many other indulgences.  We have been there for each other through marathons, half marathons, weddings, babies, graduations, break ups, divorces, job issues, issues with children, terrorist attacks, milestones, struggles, achievements, loss and happiness.

However, this winter delivered a very heavy tragedy.  One of our Sole Sisters lost her son. He took his own life much, much too early 😦  We have all struggled.  Her pain cannot even be imagined or fully realized by any of us.  We want to fix everything and make is all okay.  But…it is not okay and it never will be.  Things happened quickly at first…the wake, the funeral and then the meal train.  We were all there…along with family and other friends.  We knew our biggest role would come down the road when most everyone else gets back to their everyday lives.  Our dear friend no longer has or knows what her everyday life looks like.

Through it all, she continued to join us for our weekly runs. I trained and ran a marathon.  She was out there on the course with some other sole sisters supporting me in heavy rain and wind.  She somehow managed to still be the rock.  We saw glimpses of her old self, her humor and some intermittent smiles.  Then we had a few weeks where we were unable to all run together, her son’s burial and birthday happened and we all lost track a bit.  We all know this is life, but it’s hard to not feel guilty as if we have failed our friend.  She skipped out on our weekly run this past weekend.  We struggled with what the right thing to do was…leave her alone, text her that we love her, go see her in person for a runner girl jig? It was a torturous struggle. We didn’t want to upset her, we wanted to honor her boundaries, respect her alone time and let her grieve but we also don’t want her to slip away, feel alone or disconnected.

As we go forward, we have to just continue being there when she reaches out, keeping in touch with words and acts of love and compassion, encouraging her to be with us for our weekend runs and breakfast after, give her the space she needs, keep an authentic connection, listen to her and continue loving her.  Our struggles with how to help support her and how to know what and what not to do cannot compare with her struggle and heavy grief. Life will never be the same 😦

Sole Sisters are special, resilient, strong and loving…a family.  Our relationships with each other are ones to be cherished.  Friends like this don’t come around every day.  I feel extremely grateful for these amazing women.

If anyone has any experience or insight on ways to help a friend through the loss of a child or loss involving suicide, I would love to hear more.  xoxo.

 

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