Adrian's Story: Exercise Helping with the Grieving Process

How Adrian used exercise to help with the grieving process.

About Adrian

I’m Adrian, a 49 year old primary school teacher living in a rural village in Huntingdonshire.


I have always demonstrated an interest in sport from a very young age, playing rugby, football and cricket regularly through my teens, university and adult life. As age creeps up with you, and the time it takes to recover from playing moves into the second half of the week, it was time to introduce other physical activities. Cycling, running, walking and gardening started to fill the weekends. These activities can be undertaken any time and was able to be squeezed in whilst juggling a busy family, work and dad’s taxi duties!

What changed

Sadly, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer whilst 8 months pregnant with our first child, then subsequently diagnosed with bowel cancer 10 years later. A long battle sadly ended her life far too early, at a tender age of 46. During this time, as the illness took hold and the time to recover between treatments increased, the time you have to exercise reduced dramatically. Managing 2 young children, a terminally ill wife and a busy job resulted in grabbing what moments you could – often to clear your head and help you to try to come to terms with what was to come.

The first year was a blur. You are dealing with so much and making sure everyone else is ok that you forget to think about yourself. Forget is probably not the right word – it was putting off having to face the future and the fear of what lies ahead. You can prepare for death, you can make sure the family are supported but the hardest thing to do is navigate a path for you. The uncertainty of the future and the harsh reality that you are a widower and a single parent took its toll!  As time passed, and grief took hold, it became increasingly difficult to navigate a way forward.

The way forward

Accepting that you are not superman is hard. The harsh reality was that I couldn’t work full time and be there for a young family. I received some counselling and reduced my hours and went part time. I found that when the children were at school, I had some ‘me’ time, something I hadn’t had for a very long time. I started walking. It was fresh air. It helped me think. As the distances increased, the walk started to turn into a jog. I downloaded the Couch to 5k app and within 10 weeks, I had become a runner again. I got the bug! Walking, running and cycling became part of my daily routine. I started to see a difference in my mood. I was happier. I started sleeping better. I started looking forward to my ‘me’ time.

I found that my confidence took a bit of a battering during this time, with so much of your life changing all at once, I needed to prove to myself that I could still do something. I made the brave decision to sign up for the Cambridge Half Marathon in March 2020. I must be mad! I had only ever ran one half marathon before. That was at Silverstone some 16 years earlier and my lasting memory of that cold, wind swept day was being overtaken by a guy dressed as a camel!  

The training wasn’t difficult as I found myself easily motivated to go out running. I had a training buddy who would run with me and I stayed injury free. March 2020 came and I completed the half marathon in 2 hours and 56 seconds. Not bad for someone in their 50th year!

The future

One thing I have learned is to not look too far ahead. Life has become much happier and as a family we have started to make memories again. Exercise has stayed with me. I run 10km 3 times a week and cycle 20 miles twice a week. I have an allotment and love being outside. I am convinced that the physical exercise combined with the fresh air has helped me navigate through this difficult time. It has helped me mentally, physically and emotionally. I have good friends, the kids are doing well at school and continue to take part in all their sporting activities and hobbies. Life is busy but less stressful. I have kept the weight off that I lost and it has given me the confidence to meet new people and find a special person to go out with and start living again. Who knows what the future has in store, but I’m in a much better place to deal with whatever life throws at me!


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