The Route to Feeling Alive

The response to this week’s fitness and coping series has been so great that we’ll publish more articles next week. If you’re interested in contributing articles in the future about how fitness has helped you, please send an email to Read all the articles in the series here and visit our new forum, Fitness and Grief.

Today we hear from Michele, who turned to running following her husband’s death in 2012.

Michele DwyerLong before my husband’s death, he and I would walk a pleasant 3 miles around town, a path which took us along a river near our home. Sometimes we’d hold hands, sometimes (most times) he had a cigarette in the other.

About a year before his death, I was walking that same route alone, my iPod in my ears, contemplating many things, trucking along at a quicker pace then he and I would do. Then, on October 22, 2012, my husband got into his car and drove it 3.54 miles from our home to a sewage treatment plant. There, he filled his car up with carbon monoxide and started breathing until he stopped breathing for forever.

I did not walk, or move, for 30 days, save for putting one foot in front of the other in our home, room to room, doing details, taking care of kids, sitting, lying down. I did not pick up a weight, or stretch, or walk.

I took baths. Lots of them. My body felt heavy, even though I dropped 10 pounds in what seemed like 24 hours of learning I was a widow and that my children were fatherless.  I ate food just so that I wouldn’t die.

Before winter really set in, I finally ventured outside and started walking. I found myself walking the route he took to kill himself. It was cold, I was hungry but didn’t feel like eating, and I walked. It would be the first time I came upon the sight. I don’t know when it will be my last … I’ve been doing this for several months and I still go.

But now I run. I run the whole way. And I run back home, twice what I used to walk, and quicker. I think back on that first day I walked it – after 30 days of no exercise, or motion, or using my body, I was exhausted by the time I got back home that day. Tired. Sad. Heavy. But I had walked. And I slept that night. And I ate food and tasted it. It slowly got better from there.

Now I run this route to feel alive, not to just follow his last path. I think of him breathing in poison, and I run faster so that I can breathe in air, fill my lungs with pureness. I feel my legs pulling and pushing, and I revel in their movement.  I marvel at my capacity to run until it feels like I’m dancing.

I can’t believe that I’m running and sometimes forget that I am.  I keep running, and when I haven’t run or miss a day, my body starts itching to go. I feel it wanting to work.

In the early stages of my running journey, I imagined that I was running to get to my husband before he got into the car to die. It was all about not accepting that he was dead. Now, I run imagining that I am going to catch up to his spirit, to where ever he is. I imagine if I really run, I might see him before he gets to the other side.

I accept now that he’s gone. I don’t run to save him anymore; I run to take care of me. That is how my grief has progressed on my running journey of 8 months. I don’t cry as much when I’m running like I did in the beginning. I actually feel joy, listening to the birds, feeling my body be strong, being ALIVE.

Running is getting to be about me now, and less about him. It has helped me in ways I could never have imagined. I used to run from the hurt, run to try and fix something. Now I run to stay strong, healthy; I run to breathe big. I like to see my legs strong, my pulse slower, my blood pressure that of a woman half my age.

I’m thinking a marathon is in my future …

Read more from Michele on her Hello Grief blog (you must be logged in to see this). She also has started the group Touched by Suicide.


  1. Becky Livingston said on August 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm ... #

    This is such a wonderful and well written story. I love how your reason for running changed over time, how you tried to make sense of it all. Bless you and thank you for sharing this.

  2. Melissa said on August 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm ... #


    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. And I have a feeling when you do decide to run a marathon, you will be awesome. 🙂


  3. Scouthalle said on September 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm ... #

    Very insightful on your healing process. My brother committed suicide this summer and the first few times I ran, I would just break down crying uncontrollably. You give me hope. I will continue running…for my healing.

  4. Michele D. said on September 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm ... #

    Thank you Becky and Melissa, for your encouraging words. My heart goes out to you,Scouthalle, for the loss you are feeling in the wake of your brother’s death.

    I am still running, and just recently started running a different route rather than the one my husband took. I was ready, and it is helping me move forward more than I could have hoped for. Also…I’ve added another mile 🙂

    Thank you all again…blessings and hope to you..Michele

  5. Anne Marie said on September 14, 2013 at 11:39 am ... #

    Your words are inspiring and bring with them a vision of your incredibly painful yet bountiful journey. You are running a marathon already with each breath, with each feeling of exhilaration and joy that comes with feeling alive, with each tear and memory, with each new day of knowing you are courageously moving forward for you and for your family. Thank you for sharing so much of you dear friend.

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