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Grief is just a Part of the Story, it’s not the Whole Story

Grief can be wholly and absolutely debilitating. It can take you from smiles to sobs in seconds. It is a lonely, quiet, destructive silence. And sometimes the best way to get through it is to let it happen. To allow the full, pure force of grief take over. To let it consume you, for a time. So yesterday, on the five-year anniversary of my father’s death, that’s exactly what I did. I took some time to quietly allow myself to experience the sadness I had held back all day. And that sadness grew. And grew. After a good, long, ugly cry, I put on my running shoes, prepped my headphones, and took it to the curb. I intended to run the full force of this feeling out of my body. And so I ran. And sobbed. And sprinted. And cried. And slowly jogged. I thought about my dad. I thought about our good times. I thought about what I would tell him if we were talking in that moment. I imagined him running next to me (something he could never do because he was chronically ill most of my life) and how amazing it would be to have that experience. I thought about how different life would be if he was never ill. And for some reason that made me smile. 2015/01/img_7344.jpg Eventually the tears were replaced with smiles. I felt light on my feet. I felt oddly optimistic. And then I realized two things that I knew I had to share here on the blog.

It is Brave to be Vulnerable

Life has forced me, time and time again, to relinquish the very idea that I have control over my circumstances. I don’t. I don’t know what challenges the future will bring me and I have no idea how capable I will be of addressing them. No matter what I do, loss, sadness, concern, disappointment, rejection, and failure will be things I experience again in my life. Once I accept that it is all part of my future, and that I don’t know when the next challenge will come, it forces me to address my feelings right now. I needed to be vulnerable. To cry. And to be completely okay with fully experiencing that sadness. And I told myself this one thing, over and over again: You are allowed to be sad today. Sure, you could argue that you don’t need permission to be sad. That we should all be better at self management, recognizing needs, etc.. But I was with my husband’s family and we were in this awesomely rare day together. And I wanted to be there with them. It’s just not what I needed. I needed to be sad. And to run. And to give myself some time. You are allowed to be sad today. So I ran. And cried as I ran. And I allowed myself to be vulnerable to the judgement of my family, to the strangers that passed me on the street, and to my own expectations of self worth. I cried in public. Not for sympathy, but for myself. And it was ugly. I was covered in nose drippings and tears and sweat and smudged mascara. But I had to. I had to prove to myself that it really was okay. You are allowed to be sad today. And sometimes the only way to prove it, is to live it. And I felt brave.

Make Your Story a Story Worth Missing

When you lose someone you love, it’s easy to think of all of the experiences and milestones that they’ll miss. My dad missed my wedding, he missed being a grandfather to my son, and he missed helping me with the purchase of our first home. He’ll never get the chance to judge my failures, or honor my successes, or share in our best memories. As I started to list all of the best moments and memories in the five years since my dad passed I realized: there is so much good in our life. And that is exactly what he wanted. He wanted my sisters and I to be happy. He wanted us to find happiness, to reach milestone after milestone, and he seemed to accept that while he wouldn’t be part of our story – he wanted our story to be a story worth telling. I truly know that, in my heart, he wanted nothing else but for us to be happy. And it gives me total joy to know that I’m honoring him by continuing to add to our story. To have a list of best moments and stories too long to share. To leave the best moments in my future. And to work towards making them our reality.

From Instagram

Yesterday was the five-year anniversary of my father’s death. And it was SO much harder than any other year. So I ran. And ran. For 7.5 miles. Today, I am so lucky to have a wonderful family, Florida sunshine, and a pair of running shoes. It wasn’t pretty (grief never is) and there were moments where I’m sure I looked slightly insane, but running got me through the sad shit. It got me through the “not fair’s” and “too soon’s” and it got me to a place where I could see my future. If hitting the sidewalk for a long run will give me a chance to accept the way things turn out, then I’ll take it. Each and every mile. Today I’m talking about grief. Tomorrow I’m talking about joy.


Love you, dad.






Grief is just part of my story - it is not my whole story | How I Sustain Blog


  1. Abbie Gagen says

    As usual, accurately put. Thanks for putting my thoughts on paper and making me cry again! Dad would have loved it.

    • Ab, you’re awesome and I love you. In the future, I think we would be best served by honoring this day with some kind of wellness excursion. šŸ˜‰

  2. Hi Julie! I am artfuleigh on IG. I just want say thank you for posting this and sharing here. I have heard several people in the industry state that we shouldn’t share anything too personal or not positive, but that’s not life. Real life is hard, and you are right, grief is a part of the story and I love that you said it’s not the whole story. I feel ya. I run too, just the other day8.3 miles when thinking about my son. He was 20 years old when he left that busy morning to drop off my middle son at school and he never returned. Just the coroner came to our house. It was a car wreck. The five year anniversary was this past year, and I was soooo dreading it. Then an epiphany came to me. I counted up all the days he had here on earth, 7367 days. And when that day came I realized his passing was one day and it never happens again. That one day does not have to be recurring but I can remember the other 7367 days he had with us and celebrate those. That doesn’t mean I won’t have an ugly cry, still , but if I passed you in the road running I would totally understand and would probably cry with you , thanks for the real stuff, Leigh

    • Leigh, you’re amazing. Being able to develop that kind of perspective is truly inspiring. I agree, real stuff is important to share. It’s necessary. For a long time I wasn’t sure if I was able to share both real and creative stuff in the same space (on my blog) but more recently I’ve come to realize that MOST of the women I meet through memory keeping classes, projects, and circles – they all have something they’re working through. Something that drives them to create, reflect, and share memories – good and bad. I’m SO happy to have “met” you and be connected to you through these channels. Let’s keep being real. And creative. There’s room for both. šŸ™‚

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