There are Harder Things Than This

September 15, 2016

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I’m not a runner. At all.

There are very few things that could ever prompt me to attempt to move this middle-aged mom body in such an appalling (and jiggling) way. My children…our children…are likely the only thing, short of a miracle straight from heaven, that could cause me to put down the Netflix and run. It’s the first annual 5K Run/Walk and Remembrance Walk to benefit Sufficient Grace Ministries that prompted me to begin this most humbling and painful training process. Senior citizens can move faster than me! And, while I would love to say I’m praying eloquent prayers or thinking deep thoughts on my runs, I’m mostly begging God to keep me alive and distract me from the pain. Every out-of-shape step makes me want to quit.

I can’t breathe.

My legs are on fire.


Only I am…still breathing. I can…keep going. Because, I haven’t dropped over dead…yet.

There are many correlations between running and grieving. Running and surviving this life.

It hurts. It hurts so badly you don’t think you can go on. The pain mixed with the constant, overwhelming thoughts that you will not make it consume your mind. The pain is just too much. It feels as if it may never end. The pain becomes bigger than everything else.

Much like grief.

Last week, as I thought of scripture to distract from the pain burning through my legs while my feet pounded the pavement, I began to focus on something else. A list. A list of things that are harder than this. For some perspective, the “harder than this” I’m referring to is running in 5 minute intervals.

Labor. Labor is harder than this. As a doula, I get in the face of mothers when they are in excruciating pain…when they think they can’t do this for one more moment. I tell them with the utmost confidence that they can. That they were made to do this. How can I tell them they can keep going if I quit?

So, I run a little further.

Enduring labor or surgical delivery when your baby has died or will die shortly after birth…is harder than this.

So, I run a little further.

Watching your mother, your father, your spouse, or anyone you love suffer and die…is harder than this.

So, I run a little further.

Laying in a hospital bed is harder than this.

So, I run a little further.

Picking out a family burial plot at the tender age of 21 is harder than this.

So, I run a little further.

Surviving this life is harder than this. But, guess what…we are doing just that. Surviving this life. If you are here, reading these words, you are surviving this life. We can mentally, physically, emotionally endure much more than we think possible. It may hurt so much we want to quit. Sometimes the pain may feel bigger than everything else.

We may think we can’t go on.

But, we can. Just a little further.

Related: Grieve. Be Happy. Repeat.

Until one day, it doesn’t hurt quite so bad. Until one day when our minds fill with something bigger than the pain. A reason to keep going…not because they died. But, because they lived. Sometimes it’s what we survive that reminds us that we have the God-given strength to keep going. Every broken experience we endure and survive makes us stronger. When running, it is the act of tearing down your muscles that builds strength. Each time they heal, they grow stronger. The same is true for us. It’s the broken places where beauty is born…and it is in the healing and rebuilding that we grow stronger.

So I run for them. I run for my babies who can’t be here to run, and for the babies I have held and welcomed to this earth as mothers and fathers whisper hellos and goodbyes in the place where heaven meets earth. I run for my mother who can’t be here to run beside me. I run for the people who wish they could run. I run, because I’m still breathing. I may run slower than most people walk…but I keep going. Because the journey matters so much more than how quickly I arrive at the destination. The most important thing we can do…sometimes the only thing we can do is to keep going.

  • Kelly Gerken

    Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly's journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here:

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