Your Ultimate “WIY” / Remembering Your “WIY”
144 Push-Ups = 1 Reason
Grief: When the Going Gets [Extra] Challenging
Normally I ask my clients to lean on me. Today, however, marks an out-of-the-norm occasion where I’m needing to lean on someone else. It’s more important for me to share – if I can help someone through their own grief by giving you a lens through mine, then I’ll consider this article a success.
Forty years ago, my mom used to take my sister and me to the nursing home to visit my great grandmother, who was in her early nineties. Truth be told, I didn’t like going. Even at five years old, I knew it was the right thing to do, but I still didn’t like being there. The two main reasons that stood out to me were, first, I didn’t care for the pungent smell. Second, the way that my great grandmother referred to my sister and me as “the boys” made me uncomfortable. “How are you boys today?” she would ask. At the time, I didn’t understand that she suffered from Alzheimer’s. Later I realized it made perfect sense – she raised three sons and was remembering them, so…boys.
Fast forwarding to early this year, here we were with my dad. Whewwwwwww… He was healthy for most of his life, until he wasn’t. The last three months were especially difficult. We watched him decline the past five years, starting with a stroke and type 2 diabetes, which then led to forgetfulness and a painful progression. Last week, after he had been bedridden for several weeks, eating or drinking little and with much difficulty, I knew he was approaching his final days. I was able to spend a few days there to say some very important things, including goodbye. Only a few days after that, he passed away. As heartbreaking as it was to see him so frail, we found mercy in that he could finally rest peacefully.
Amidst a tearful week, I am choosing to focus more on the victories and the outstanding person that he was. In high school, he was a great athlete: the quarterback of the football team, the point guard on the basketball team, and the pitcher on the baseball team. Most of all, he was a great man.
Why share my grief? First, no one escapes challenges, grief, and stress. We all endure it. You’re not exempt during your weight loss journey, nor when you reach a maintenance phase. Therefore, find ways to lean into the challenges, big and small. Stop saying you’re going to get back to your healthy lifestyle when the stressful event is over. Stop allowing the little things to cast a huge black cloud over your day.
Second, how am I dealing with everything? As coaches, clients ask us all the time, “What are you eating?” I figured that since we all deal with anguish at some point as well, you might want to know how I’m managing it. Of course, something as painful as grief over losing a parent will threaten to shake the routine right out of any of us. No doubt, the out-of-the-ordinary times will truly test who you are. And what I’m about to share with you isn’t in the interest of saying, “Look at me – I’m doing so great in spite of pain.” Honestly, I’m eating healthy foods and continuing to fit my workouts in regularly. I know that may shock some people and that some might think, “That’s so selfish.” But here are my reasons:
My dad was a health and phys ed teacher in addition to being the “triple threat” athlete I mentioned earlier.
My dad stepped back and let me fight my own battles when I was young, and as a result of that, I learned to problem solve.
My dad taught me to be an athlete – and being the amazing example he was, until two years ago, he was still doing 144 pushups three times per week.
So, I can’t think of a better way to honor him, really. If I eat and drink my face off, what does that solve? Seriously, no amount off-plan food or alcohol will solve that grief; it will only compound it.
There are some other ways that I’ve been dealing with grief. I’ve kept my appointments and still communicated with clients. I’ve been keeping my promises and responsibilities to my fellow coaches. Those actions are part of me coping and healing by channeling my grief into more positive directions – truly, all helpful. When we are sad, I’ve personally found that getting outside of myself is a very good thing.
What else? I’ve been asking others for what I need. I’ve been crying. Even as I type this article and look down at the keyboard, I can “see” the puffy undereye circles from crying so long and so hard. If you’ve ever cried for an extended period of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about!
I’ve also been going to bed early. I avoided posting on social media so that I can use the energy I have to focus on what I need to do. Sometimes, people need to reach out for support; other times, it can exacerbate feelings and overwhelm in a time of crisis or stress. My sister, Jill, and I decided to wait until we were ready to make that announcement, receive condolences, and respond to messages.
Overall, if you think about each of these actions – none of them individually or collectively solves the grief; however, by keeping my body as well-fed, well-rested, and well-supported as possible, I stand a better chance of being able to manage otherwise difficult days. And even though it’s not my first rodeo with grief, I don’t really experience the loss of someone close to me often (I think the last funeral I attended was in 1998). So please don’t think I’ve had all the experience and all of the opportunities to refine my process. Like many of you, I am navigating somewhat-new territory and just trying to figure it out.
Finally, when the going gets challenging, we often encourage clients to return to WHY you started your journey. I want to introduce to you a related type of motivation, and that is the WIY:
Who Inspires You?
Allow me to share a few pictures that capture who my dad was and WHY I will be carrying on how he inspired me to live. So many new clients come to us and, when asked what is motivating them to make healthy changes, grow very emotional. Perhaps a close loved one suffered a health event that ended their life abruptly, and they don’t want to suffer that same outcome. Now is the time to tackle it: TODAY. Your why always has to begin and end with you. But why not also for people you love and care about?
In instances where life becomes “too busy” or “too overwhelming,” it can be a prelude to the thought, “Maybe I should just give up”…when what your ego is trying to tell you is to take the easy way out.
Therefore, listen to the authentic voice that says to you, “Keep going. Deep down, you know it’s what you want.” Using your WIY can help. Again, who inspires you? Dig up those photos, and allow yourself to remember.
Finally, respect the process. Respect the time. Respect the process. Tomorrow is never promised, and the lasttomorrow will be here before you know it. As I sit here today, four decades later, I can still recall so vividly the way my great grandmother’s nursing home smelled and how she was so frail but also so strong. Time goes by so fast, so embrace today. God Bless.
Jodi Sheakley-Wright, PhD, is a Lead Mentor & Health Coach with KK Wellness Consulting and Certified Wellness Coach through Wellcoaches®. She is thankful for the outstanding example that her dad, Robert (“Bob” aka “Skip”), Sheakley, Jr., taught and inspired to thousands of students in his 36-year career. She eagerly supports others in discovering and refining their own healthy path. Reach Jodi directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.