Meditations on grief

The last time I saw my father alive was Christmas 2017. He died suddenly less than a month later. Two years ago today.

I was utterly and completely unprepared for grief. For its intensity and its vastness. For an emotional pain so deep my bones ached.

Children bury their parents. It’s the natural order of things. I was an adult when I lost my father. We had 31 good years. He was a good father. He walked me down the aisle and danced at my wedding. He helped me move into my first house. I didn’t have to watch him suffer through a long illness. I should count myself lucky. My brain tells me these things often.

But grief, it turns out, is not something you can reason your way out of. Because your heart, like a toddler throwing a tantrum, will remind you that it’s not fair that he won’t ever get to be a grandfather, it’s not fair that many worse fathers live longer lives, it’s not fair that, according to the average life expectancy, you were robbed of almost two decades with your dad, and it certainly isn’t fair that you didn’t get to say goodbye.

My grief has involved many battles between my heart and my brain. On anniversaries like today, it’s my temper tantrum-throwing heart that speaks loudest. And on anniversaries like today, I allow it.

Over the past two years, I’ve read, been told, and developed many ideas about grief. One of them is that although grief never goes away, it changes. Or perhaps you do. You find a place for the loss in your life. You make space for it. You adapt around it.

As time passes, you become less overwhelmed by the finality of the death and better able to appreciate the years of life.

On an anniversary like today, I think a lot about that last Christmas. But I’m making space to reflect on our 30 other Christmases too. Like the one in this picture. My first Christmas. I love how dad and I look like we’re sharing some kind of private joke.


Dad and me: Christmas 1985

I share this because I want to keep the memory of my father alive, but I also share this because we are a grief illiterate society. After the wake and the funeral, the freezer empties out and the cards stop coming and you go back to work and there is this expectation that you get on with the business of living. And you can and you do and it becomes easier over time.

But grief is still there. And your heart may sometimes shout louder than your brain. And that’s normal and that’s okay. And you may not know that, because grief is often very well-hidden, spilling out only in solitary moments.

Despite his tough exterior, my dad was a softy. He hated to see people suffer. I got that from him. Grief is hard. Loss is hard. It’s also a universal part of the human experience. You don’t have to do it alone. I see you. I’m here for you. My dad’s compassion lives on in me.

30 Good Things Before 30: #25 – 21-Day Meditation Experience

Happy Thursday! Although the holiday makes it feel like Monday and also kind of like Friday. I don’t know why.

Anyhow, this evening finds me relaxing on the couch with my pup after a challenging 10km tempo run.

I had a visit with my foam roller, my husband bought me one of these:


Yep, that was a Chocolate Chill…

And I am now content just lying here, sipping water, breathing deeply. Calm and almost meditative.


30-good-things-before-30Sadly, I’ve kind of fallen off the meditation bandwagon. Life happened.

But then, just when I needed it, what showed up in my email inbox one day? An invitation to #25 on my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

21-Day Meditation Experience

So Oprah Winfrey teamed up with Deepak Chopra and started creating these free 21-Day Meditation Experiences.

The idea is that each day, a new audio meditation shows up in your inbox, you take 20 minutes out of your day to practice, and then have the option of journaling about several reflective questions from your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

They’ve done five of these so far, focused on themes like “Creating Abundance,” “Desire and Destiny” and “Find Your Flow.” I’ve participated in a couple — the most recent this winter.

And they’re great. For those 21 days. And for a little while after.

But eventually life happens. And you get out of the habit, which is exactly where I’m at lately.

Luckily, the newest 21-Day Meditation Experience is right around the corner, starting on July 13. This one focuses on “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude.”

There’s a YouTube promo, if you’re interested.

The video is a little infomercially, but the experience itself is legit.

If you’ve ever been curious about meditation, this is a great way to try it out. It’s simple, convenient, and, for me at least, surprisingly empowering. You can register for free over here.

What’s your favourite thing to do after a tough run?

Do you meditate or are you interested in trying meditation?

Do you miss Oprah being on TV? (Because I do, guys!)

30 Good Things Before 30: #7 – Dirt Under Your Fingernails

It’s 7 p.m. on a Sunday night and I am pooped. My feet are aching, my back is stiff and heat is radiating off the back of my sunburnt neck.

But I’m content. Pretty darn proud of myself actually.

That’s because I spent the bulk of the day (as I’ve spent most of my weekend days over the past month) in the dirt.

Since we bought our first home three-and-a-half years ago, we’ve turned it from a gardenless abyss to a horticulturalist’s oasis–okay, more like a newbie gardener’s best effort. We have three decorative gardens in the front, two veggie patches in the back and a new fenced-in, (hopefully) deer-proof container garden.

30-good-things-before-30This time of the year, all those gardens mean you’re most likely to find me up to my elbows in compost and mulch. It gets tiring, sure, and I have the rare—okay, frequent–moments where I wonder what on earth I filled my time with before I became garden-obsessed. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Which brings me to #7 of my list of 30 Good Things Before 30:

Dirt Under Your Fingernails

After a day of gardening, I take a special pride in looking down at hands covered by dirt.

A day well-spent

A day well-spent

Being outside, nurturing veggies from seed, splitting up thriving perennials that have outgrown last season’s spot, wearing smudges of dirt from head to toe: it just feels good.

Which isn’t surprising. I think we all know getting outside is good for our mental health and, on top of that, gardening is a gentle, relaxed process that quiets the mind–almost like a worm-filled, dirt-digging meditation session.

Turns out there’s even more to it though. The Therapeutic Landscapes Network sums it up well in its blog:

“A strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of seratonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. And on top of that, this little bacterium has been found to improve cognitive function and possibly even treat cancer and other diseases.”

Hard to argue with that.

I think everyone should garden, even if it’s just some potted herbs in your kitchen, a tomato plant on your patio or a hanging pot of flowering annuals outside your window. There is no greater satisfaction than eating food you’ve grown yourself or inhaling the floral scent of a plant you’ve cared for.

Bottom line: just roll up your sleeves, plunge your hands in the soil, and get dirty!

Zen and the art of treadmill maintenance

Today’s run: TBD

I’ve been meditating lately (yep, hot yoga last week, meditating this week: I’m that girl). Specifically, I’ve been working through Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience: Manifesting True Success.

Each day, a link to a new guided meditation shows up in my inbox. I barricade myself in my office, light a candle or some incense, sit cross-legged on my dog’s bed, and let Oprah and Deepak guide me from “limiting beliefs” to discovering that my successes can be “infinite.”


“You’re stealing my bed to do what?”

You may think this sounds ridiculous. And if you could talk to 19-year-old me, she’d agree and you could conspire about how lame and new-agey I’ve become over a pitcher of Alpine.

Historically, I’ve been a firm believer in the glorification of busy. I’ve equated success with being constantly on the move or, failing that, at least having a brain that was operating at breakneck speeds.

I’m starting to figure out there’s little glory in dashing through life like it’s a race to the finish line (ironic coming from a runner, no?) and that a few minutes of stillness, deep breathing and turning inward is way more fruitful than several hours with a mind so busy its focus is split in a dozen different directions.

I’m in Week 2 of my meditation experience and we’re starting to focus on making SMART choices. Yep, that’s an acronym. And yep, I’m aware of how super-dorky it sounds, but bear with me.

SMART choices encompass the following:

S – Stretch more than you can reach

M – Make everything measurable

A – Agreement with your inner self and those around you

R – Record your progress

T – Time limits for acting and getting a result

I’m still new to the SMART doctrine, In fact, so far, I’ve only been introduced to S, which essentially just asks that I move beyond my comfort zone and familiar boundaries.

And that’s how I found myself here yesterday:

I’m fortunate enough to have a treadmill in my home gym. I’m also fortunate enough to have a husband who is rather handy and generally takes care of the related maintenance. Not because I can’t do it. But because I don’t wanna. And because that’s just one of the benefits of having a husband.

This past week, my treadmill started skipping. At best, it was super-annoying. At worst? Kind of dangerous. I let dear hubby know that the belt needed to be tensioned and lubricated. And he promised he’d get to it.

But then, of course, life happened. He worked a week of 14-hour days, coming home just to sleep. On Friday, as he was running late for an out-of-town, all-weekend engagement, he gave me a call to let me know that, once again, he wouldn’t have time for the treadmill.

“I’ve got a great idea for your blog,” he said. “Write about fixing your treadmill. It’s something every runner has to do at some point, right?”

Well-played, sir. Well-played.


Tools of the trade (including what would turn out to be the wrong T-handled thingy)

So trying very hard to stretch more that I can reach, I marched into the gym, busted out the owner’s manual and got to work. I learned a couple of things:

  1. Read the instructions. Read all the instructions. I did pretty much everything wrong because I gave the instructions a very casual perusal and then just did what I thought should be done. This included loosening the belt, even though it didn’t need to be loosened, trying to run the treadmill while the belt was still loosened, and doing the exact opposite of what I should have done to center the belt. Essentially, not reading the instructions turned what should have been a 15-minute job into an hour-long one. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the necessary tools. I also wasted a lot of time trying to adjust the belt using the wrong T-handled thingy. The treadmill comes with two T-handled thingies. I don’t know why. I don’t care why. But this would have been handy to know from the get-go. I was also using a new-to-me piece of technology called the Lube-N-Walk. It’s designed to simplify this process because you can just slide it under the belt, saving you from loosening it in order to apply the lubricant. I didn’t know this. So I wasted a lot of time (see above).

In the end, the mission was (mostly) a success. I took my freshly-lubricated, newly-tensioned treadmill for a 6-mile trial run and it worked. Only had to readjust the belt once.

Today I might take it for another spin and enjoy the fruits of stretching beyond my reach. But not until I do some meditation because after that nonsense, my state of zen is in need of some serious restoration.

Namaste, y’all.

I’m still here…

It’s been a while. It’s been… well, too long.

(Once again.)

The thing is, life happened. And by life, I don’t mean the everyday doing laundry, picking up groceries, washing dishes, walking the dog flurry of activity that is often enough, in and of itself, to put the brakes on this whole operation.

By life, I mean one of those unexpected bumps in the road that knocks the breath out of your lungs and leaves you wheezing.

Change. I guess that’s what I mean.

Nothing inherently negative. Just uncertain. Uncomfortable.

And with that, I’ve been a little lost. And in so being, couldn’t quite figure out how to come back here.

Because I haven’t felt myself. And I haven’t felt ready to talk about it. And I thought that if I gave it time, I might find a way to put it into words gracefully. Graciously.

Which I haven’t.

What I can say is that I’m still here. A tiny voice in the wilderness. That’s what courage sounds like.

Let’s Talk

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. It’s an awareness campaign that aims to break the stigma around mental illness and, in Canada, it’s a pretty big deal.

Bell Let's Talk poster

Bell Let’s Talk poster

For every text message sent and wireless or long distance call made by Bell customers, and for every mention of #BellLetsTalk on Twitter, Bell donates five cents to mental health programs. Last year, that amounted to $5,472,585.90.

So, yeah. A big deal.

And it’s a big deal to me personally because I am among the one in five Canadians that has experienced mental illness.

And while I’ve always supported this campaign by dashing off some texts and sending out the appropriately hashtagged social media posts, I’ve never actually participated by sharing my truth. Which, it struck me this year, is somewhat hypocritical.

My mental health is not something I talk about and, as this campaign tries to drive home, that’s the problem. Two-thirds of those suffering from mental health issues do so in silence, fearing judgment and rejection.

The problem is mental health is seen in a different light than physical health. Howie Mandel, one of the spokespeople for #BellLetsTalk, makes a great point in one of the campaign’s promo videos:

If we take care of our mental health like our dental health, we’ll be okay… In corporate North America and Canada you can say in the middle of the day “I’ve gotta leave at 3. I’ve gotta go see my dentist.” But you look at the looks in the office when you say, “You know what? I gotta go to a psychiatrist.” You’ll get looks. And that’s what’s wrong. And that’s why we gotta talk about it.

So let’s talk.

I’ve experienced mental health struggles since high school. Over the years, they’ve manifested in different ways–depression, disordered eating, self-harm–and to different degrees.

As I’ve grown up with these experiences, I’ve found ways to manage them. At the darkest times, medication and therapy helped lift me. On a regular basis, mindfulness and exercise help maintain my balance.

Now there are many good days. Many more good days than bad days. The bad days come, but I know they’ll go as well.

I drafted this post two days ago in preparation for today, mulled it over, almost deleted it, and then this morning, energized by all the mental health discussion I’ve seen happening, decided it was time to share.

But even now, even with all the positive supportive talk I’ve gulped down on social media today, I’m still afraid to hit ‘Publish.’ And that’s the problem.

So… let’s talk.