Tag Archives: bereaved parents

Tomorrow’s Race or Ending a Rough Week by Honoring and Supporting

So much is going on this week.  First and foremost we’re all trying to process what happened at the Boston Marathon and what’s happening there right now as I write this.  I think about all of the victims and the City, itself.  I think about the future of marathons and other sporting events which require wide open spaces and a fluid flow of people ranging from participants, volunteers, to spectators, media and so on.  I think about why we run, bike, swim and do what we do as athletes.  I think of my fellow runners, triathletes and other athletes who wonder about the same things and have shown support by going for a run or signing up for a race.  I think about the newly bereaved parents of all four victims (including the young MIT police officer) who died from this horrendous act and the journey of grief they’ve been forced to embark.

And this week I’ve been thinking a ton about a couple of bereaved parents who are going through exceptionally tough times right now.   I’m praying for them and sending lots of love and positive thoughts their way.

Also during this week I had a couple of tests done on my heart.  I requested them after a relatively high number of deaths occurred during triathlons over the past couple of years.  (Some may read this paragraph and think I’m overreacting by having these tests done, especially given I’m generally healthy.  Maybe I am.  And maybe I’m a bit too sensitive to heart-related issues given what Noah, MLH and I’ve been through.  As far as I’m concerned, NOT doing what I can to help limit my risks seems irresponsible.)  With all of the wires, numbers and other readings displayed on monitors, the ultrasound and a four member medical team assessing me, my exam was rather surreal.   I found myself tearing up a couple of times.  Even talking to my GP earlier about ordering these tests made me feel like I was in some sort of neither world.  We discussed the triathlon-related deaths, the heart, tests, reliability of results, even Noah and other aspects that caused images of my son and the CICU to flash in front of me.  Funny and sick how triggers work.

Finally, my first triathlon of the season is tomorrow.  I’ll race to honor the victims.  I’ll race for the newly bereaved parents and their angels.  I’ll race to help hold my two friends up with empathy and love.  And as always I’ll race for Noah.

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Support System

Since Noah passed away, I continue to get advice on self-care.  One aspect of self-care is having and actually utilizing a support system.   Most people have support systems.  One isn’t required to be a member of the sad, unfortunate bereaved parents club to have one.  For me, though, since losing my son, I’ve become much more open to this concept and much more appreciative of having one.

I’m so grateful for my friends and family members far and near who are there for me.  I am grateful for their love, compassion and efforts to walk by my side on my journey.

I’m also fortunate to have a few bereaved parent support groups.  MLH and I had one while living on the east coast.  We were sad to leave this group.  We miss its members and think of their children often.  When we moved I searched for a local group and recently found one.  Additionally I have a virtual group that consists of parents who also have lost Heterotaxy children.  I am so grateful for having these groups in my life.  They’re an important part of my support system.

Within my support system I have “a triathlete section.”   Here I have my friends and family members who tolerate my training schedule, inquire about my progress and cheer me on.

Members of my tri clubs are also part of my support system.  The interesting thing about this group is they don’t even know it!  They don’t know that by showing up, focusing on the workout, talking about a race, discussing technique, and doing pretty much anything related to training they’re providing a tremendous amount of support.  Not asking if I have children but asking about PRs, favorite segments, bikes, races and training schedules is the best support I can get at that time.

What does your support system look like?  Are you utilizing it when you need to?  Are you part of somebody else’s support system?

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I’m a Triathlete. I’m a Bereaved Mother. I’m Both.

This is Susan.  She’s joining us for the first time; she’s training for Nationals.

Welcome to our first Women’s Triathlon Summit.

Yep, this past weekend was very much a social one for me.  And yes, it involved interacting with other endurance athletes.  On Saturday I joined my coach’s Saturday group workout for the very first time.  And thanks to a good friend I attended a women’s only triathlon panel discussion on Sunday.

I was a bit anxious about Saturday’s group training session and admitted this to my coach.  Aside from knowing we’ll swim, then bike and finally run, I told him I really didn’t know exactly what else to expect:  What do I need to bring?  Will I have time to change from my swimsuit into cycling clothes or should I wear a trisuit for the swim?  Should I bring my fins?  Is there anything else I should know?

What I didn’t tell him but, of course, fed my anxiety was having to meet new people and engage in conversation with them for a few hours.  My strategy consisted of staying under the radar.  I figure I’ll most likely swim in the slowest lane and ride at the back of the pack.  As for the run, I’ll just push myself so I’m breathing really hard.  Then I won’t be in a position to talk.  Well, I did in fact swim in the slowest lane.  Interestingly though I made an attempt to swim in the next lane over because the only other person in the slowest lane was a pregnant woman.  (Great start, I know.)  However, I felt as though I slowed down the other lane so I moved over to share the lane with the pregnant woman.  (By the way, the fact that I qualified for Nationals while consistently finding myself swimming in the slowest lane bewilders me!)  I ended up being so focused on my workout I barely saw her and her belly.  And when I did I immediately looked away.  It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t really horrible either.

We did have time to change in the locker room where I met another member of Pete’s team.  As we changed into our cycling clothes we talked about riding and Honu 70.3‘s horrendous crosswinds.  So far so good.

I grabbed my bike off the top of my car and rode it over to join the rest of the group.  My coach introduced me since it was my first time.  And he announced I have Nationals coming up.  Gulp!  So much for staying under the radar.  For the two hours we rode folks talked about racing, training and technique.  Woo hoo!

I quickly learned everyone doesn’t run off the bike during these sessions.  (Officially Saturday’s workout plan does include a run though.)  Unless I’m nursing knee issues or other injuries I make a point of running after biking.  (It’s great brick training.)  So I ended up running with only two other athletes.  We talked about how each of us found Pete and his training group, Honu 70.3 and training for Kona (aka Ironman World Championship).  One of the athletes who ran with me is training for it!

I managed to avoid the topic of children and made it through the other end of the trigger caused by swimming next to a pregnant woman; not too bad.  And the icing on the cake was I enjoyed the conversations I had with everyone.

On Sunday for the Women’s Triathlon Summit, MLH and I were running late from a previous appointment so I rushed over to where the event was being held. The organizers had a pretty nice spread of food, and I was incredibly hungry.  (I don’t think I ate enough after my long run earlier in the day.)  Everybody else was chatting in their chairs.  Nobody was eating.  (The event was running late.)  So while more polished, lady-like women would make their way gracefully over to the food, I dropped my purse on a chair and made a straight shot to the table where I filled a plate up with goodies.  I know, it wasn’t just hunger; I saw this as a way to avoid people.  But then I had to make my way back to my chair to eat.  And eating I did but then a couple of women introduced themselves to me.  Oh well.  We proceeded to talk about our upcoming races.  That’s it!  Once again, I really enjoyed the conversations.

I will say that as one can and should expect — when planning to attend I somehow didn’t think completely through this unfortunately — some of the topics at a woman’s triathlon event will touch on juggling children/family with training.  I didn’t experience very strong triggers when these topics came up.  I felt a little bit of emptiness inside but it wasn’t an overwhelming feeling.  Perhaps this is because I was in such awe of these women who have children, challenging jobs, partners (who either are endurance athletes and/or have challenging jobs as well) AND are top athletes in their divisions!

It’s kind of weird.  I’m so glad I attended both events and most importantly enjoyed talking to the people I met each day.  I still feel anxiety and automatically put up a wall because I never know when I’ll be asked about children or encounter a trigger.  I don’t know if this will ever truly go away.  However, during this past weekend, I was fortunate enough to talk to fellow triathletes about setting PRs, working with coaches, technique, swimming, bike fits, nutrition and race goals.  I got to meet some amazingly accomplished athletes who’ve qualified for Kona, turned pro, completed 26 Ironmen and earned their way onto the podium several times over!  I almost felt like another person at these events.  I was more social at both of these events than I’ve been at any other event over the past two years.  I actually hung around after the summit to chat with a couple of participants!

Aside from the handful of times children were brought up during the summit and dealing with the pregnant woman during the swim, at these events I felt like just another triathlete training for her next race.  I don’t think it’s like I live a double life:  One moment I’m a triathlete and when I’m away from the sport I’m a bereaved parent.  I think it’s more like I have a couple of layers or dimensions inside.  At both of these events, the triathlete who wants to improve, learn and share is dominant and the bereaved mother, while very much present still, takes sort of a backseat with my wall surrounding all of me.  When I’ve had to attend purely social events, my wall is a lot thicker with the bereaved mother and triathlete switching positions.  And I feel like most of the time when I train both layers are evenly present.

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Physical Strength for My Broken Places

Perhaps strength doesn’t reside in having never been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places. ~Kristen Jongen

Compassionate Friends is pretty active on Facebook where it posts words of advice and comfort for bereaved parents.  Recently it asked its members what they feel when someone comments on how strong they are.  One of the responses is the above quote.  It resonates with me.   I’m making my way through my journey which includes growing strong in my broken places.  And then there are the days and moments when I feel beyond broken.

I believe strength comes in several forms: emotional, spiritual, mental and physical.  I’ve mentioned these four types before.  From training and racing, I feel myself growing stronger physically as each day passes.  During my low-beyond-broken-periods, I believe it’s this physical strength that helps me with or, at the very least, provides temporary fillers in some of my broken places.

As odd as it may sound, I like to think Noah is helping me with my broken places since he gives me strength as I train and race.  He is my inspiration after all.

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Two New Resources for Bereaved Parents

This post is not about my triathlons. This post is about two new resources for bereaved parents.

Still Standing Magazine: It’s an online magazine for women and men who have experienced loss of a child. I’ve been following this magazine since its launch in May. It offers very helpful articles, blog posts and other resources.

Heterotaxy Bereaved Parents Network: This Facebook page was created yesterday! It’s for parents who suffer from losing a child with Heterotaxy Syndrome. Full disclosure – I have been advocating for the creation of such a group and am a huge fan of its creator (who is an amazing woman, friend and mommy). I’m also an admin. for this page.

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