Last Christmas, my family had lots of festivities planned, as usual. Then, out of the blue, my vibrant, 67-year-old father was presented with a serious health challenge. The festive spirit suddenly went into pause for my family, and we spent the last week of the year caught up in a marathon of doctor’s appointments, medical tests, fear, anxiety, panic and tears.
But amid the chaos, my father remained incredibly spirited and positive. I was not surprised. A longtime exerciser, he proudly told one doctor that this was the year he would start training for his first 10K!
To keep him motivated, to keep myself sane, and to celebrate his positive spirit, I organized a race in his honor. I also invited friends to walk. Running has always kept me positive, happy and liberated. It seemed like the right thing to do, for everyone!
My running buddies and their families, children and partners joined us on the day. Running for a meaningful cause is extremely gratifying and the countless smiling faces attested to that. Dad led the walk, and we all met at the finish line, where we raised a glass to him.
It was the best gift I could give my dad before he started his treatments. It was also a gift to my friends who were inspired by my father’s attitude toward life. I urged everyone to remember that “when everything seems dark and gray, to get out from behind the four walls and into nature, where there are colors everywhere.”
My dad is still on an uphill battle to reclaim his health. The shock has yet to wear off, but I've learned a lot in these past few months about coping with bad news. I’ve built new strategies to help me get through dark days:
1. Honor your emotions.
Let the fear, anger, stress and sadness flow. Don’t try to be brave and hold it in.
2. Be a rock.
Show your loved one, in words and actions, that you're adopting a positive attitude to the situation.
3. Heal outdoors.
Get outside and into nature, where the colors and beauty are uplifting.
4. Call on friends for support.
Most friends will be honored to help out in a time of difficulty. Don’t be shy about asking for help.
5. Move your body.
No matter how unmotivated you feel, going for a walk, to your regular exercise class, enjoying a bike ride, will make you feel better in body and mind.
6. Remember you are not alone.
Your situation is unlikely to be unique. Consider finding a support group, whether formal or informal.