Every Finish Should Be Celebrated

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This has been an extremely stressful year for me and I must say 2011 can't get here soon enough. With the loss of my mother-in-law to liver cancer in February to other family issues, if it weren't for my husband, dear friends, understanding co-workers and my running, I am not too sure where I would be today. The next few weeks are going to be a big challenge for me and my husband, but having the love and support from our friends will get us through.

What I discovered by sharing my life with others is that I am never alone in my despair. Surprisingly, I have learned that more times than not, my troubles are not too far from what others have experienced. Through their wisdom and love, I am slowly learning to accept their hand in walking through life's storms. Life is truly so much easier having others to love and support you every step of the way, especially when you feel so overwhelmed with the emotions that come at this time of year.

In a few short days those of us in the States will be celebrating one of my favorite holidays--Thanksgiving. This will be a very different one from those I have celebrated in the past. As a dear friend once told me, while I cannot turn back time, take this opportunity to make my 'new normal'. This is not the way I would have chosen to celebrate the holidays, but when the choices are few, acceptance is part of the process. My husband and I will still participate in our annual Thanksgiving Day morning Turkey Trot we once did as a family. But instead of feeling sorry for our situation we will still give thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us this year--having the love of friends both far and near is our blessing.

This past weekend I had the honor to run the San Antonio Rock N Roll Half-Marathon with three of my best friends. We all attended high school together and reconnected after many years. Earlier this summer they committed themselves to training for their first Half-Marathon. They put the hours and effort into their training and let me tell you it was a blessing to share this event with them. We are truly part of the 'Sole Sisterhood' as our shirts proudly proclaimed. We will be 'Friends to the Finish.'

I must confess, however, that this was a very tough race for me. This was my third half-marathon in five weeks and my old body was finally feeling the strain of doing so many endurance runs so close together. For some reason I was really hoping to PR this race. I just felt I was going to do much better than I did and when that didn't happen, it made me question my ability. But that all changed when I saw my girlfriends tear up with joy when they were awarded their medals. The smiles on their faces and the pride they felt forced me to re-think why a finish time meant so much more than running with my friends who have been with me through thick and thin.

On Tuesday during my recovery run I used the time to really put into perspective the true meaning of the season. And what I discovered is this journey isn't about being perfect. It isn't about being a perfect weight. It isn't about being a perfect size. It isn't about eating a perfect diet day in and day out. It isn't about what I own or how much I earn. This journey isn't about finishing a race in a certain time. It isn't even about outdoing ourselves.

But what this journey IS about is celebrating life with others. This year I have had the honor to meet SparkPeople members from all over the country, from New Orleans to Seattle to Chicago to Portland to Victoria to Los Angeles and most recently San Antonio. I even had the opportunity to connect with my local Dallas SparkPeople team. What a true blessing this year has been, even through the sad and difficult times. Friends are what will get us through the storms in life. And while I look forward to my final race of the year in Las Vegas in a few weeks, from this point forward, no matter what my time, every finish will be celebrated.


Have you lost a loved one or had family issues that caused you to lean on your friends? How are you coping with the holidays? Do you count your blessings even though times are tough?

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This is a great blog. You are very fortunate to have great family and friends. In my experience, friends really don't know how to be supportive. So many told me that they didn't want to bring things up and remind me of what had happened. Which is ridiculous, it was on my mind 24/7, basically they didn't want to see me crying. Friends can only be supportive if they have gone through something similar. What I learned was to lean on God. He helped me through the darkest times. He is there to support anyone that is hurting and will carry them through and bring them to happier times. Report
I am so glad you have discovered what I finally, truly learned this year as well. It's hard to have an awesome PR and then so so finish times one race after another. But when we stop and really look at things we realize that maybe if we stop focusing on the numbers we will actually get to live life more fully. Enjoy the friends, the family, the view, the journey - live life! Report
My mother died when I was 17 and my father died when I was 25, and I'm 61 now, so they have been gone many years. Times aren't tough for me, as I have always been very frugal and therefore I don't have money issues like many others who live way beyond their means. My father taught us that there is a lot of difference between what we "want" and what we "need." Report
I lost my husband 3 years ago Halloween, so that first Thanksgiving and Christmas was very difficult. I want to say that family and friends will help you through every holiday, but at times the every day things are harder to handle. But remember your friends and family will come anytime you call but it is up to you to call. Report
This is a GREAT blog and a much-needed reminder to focus on what I DO have rather than what I do NOT. This year has been probably one of the most (or THE most) stressful years of my whole life. The issues are too many to list here, but the latest is that I was laid off from the job I love and am now adrift, trying to figure out how we will pay our bills and coming to terms with this "loss." I really appreciate the point of this blog to focus on what I do have and the MANY people who have come along side of us. We have our children home for the week and that is a great thing.
Hoping everyone has a blessed day of thanks!

What a great blog! Thank you Nancy. Report
Great blog sista!!! Looking forward to doing a few with you next year! You are my super-hero!!! Report
Life can be a challenge. We all have things to face or burdens to bear. It's all about the attitude behind handling them. I do know from personal experiance that God will give you a family if you don't have one to help you through all of your stuff. God gave me Dennis to help me. What a blessing he has and continues to be. Thanks God. Report
I, too, have recently been through some major life changes. My friends and family have been my saving graces. I count my blessings each day. Report
I can feel your pain and the pain of others who posted a reply. I agree this has been a very emotionally challanging year-even for myself. I lost my 35 Y.O. son to diabetes, my 33 Y.O. daughter was recently diagnoised with Arterial Pulmonary Hypertension. we all know this is a terminal Disease with No Cure, and know that any day could be her last on this Earth. My 9 Y.(. grandson has had to be hospitalized in a childrens Psychiatric Unit due to aqnger, rage and attacking his family and teachers. He will not be home for Thanksgiving and possibly even Christmas. My father died two days after Christmas in '91 and my Mom one day after my Birthday in '95.
How do I habdel the Holidays without loosing my mind? I try to think of the positives...there are always some positives to concentrate on. I have 13 other grandchildren who NEED to know everything will be ok. They need traditions to go on as before...for their emotional health. My remaining children, family and I need the same. I also pray and meditate which has been very helpful.
In sum, Nancy and friends, know that it is ok to mourn your loss, even experience depression but remember too that you are loved by your family, friends and SP friends...very much.
Blessed Be to Everyone and do try to have a Happy Winter Soultice...Christmas, Hannika, Three Kings Day or what ever your family celebrates!
Elizabeth Report
Our son was killed in action in Iraq this summer. Working hard at our jobs has helped us cope by letting time pass by, however we have lost some of our motivation for things including exercise. We look forward to seeing family over Thanksgiving and are very thankful for family and friends. Hoping we can turn a corner soon and get back on track with exercise. Report
Nancy your blog and the responses below mean more than you will ever know. What you wrote, I could not have written better. A very meaningful blog and responses as well. These responses are meaningful to me (as a professional) as my job often involves care of the death and dying. In your responses I can read what people go through - not only right after their loss, but for years after the loss. Thank you for sharing and thank you to Coach Nancy - to addressing the subject matter in such a graceful manner. Report
This has been a very rough year for me too, and I know it's not over yet. Love the positive attitude that shines through you, time and time again. You are very appreciated Nancy :) Report
I've been through the worst year of my life. But instead of support my friends dissappeared when I needed them most. I feel so alone and I just want the holidays and my birthday over with (my birthday is the day after new years). Report
Between December, 2003 and January, 2005 (a 13 month period) I lost my in-laws and my mother. One death each year. Between family, friends and hospice we all made it through. This Thanksgiving will be the first in my dad's home since my mom died. We are so excited and are expecting at least 24 family members! I count my blessings everyday........I am blessed beyond words.

I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts this holiday season. Report
I lost my mom November 28, 2009. I loved mom more than life it's self. But mom was ill with stage 4 lung cancer. Really the last 10 years of moms life she struggled. But when she was put in a nursing home it killed me. I went just about everyday to see mom and be sure that she was getting the care that I wanted her to have. Every opportunity I had to take her out or bring her home to my house, I did. I watched my mom start to fade away. But she kept hanging on for some reason. I found myself going home from being with her praying that God would take my mom and not let her suffer anymore. Mom was a very strong woman raising 5 daughters and a son alone. When mom started refusing food we knew the end was coming. I would sit with her and talk with her sometimes she would doze off and them wake up like she never left the conversation. On November 27th we were talking and I told her I believed that she was worried about her son. I assured her that his sisters would look out for him. I could not believe the look of relief I saw come over mom's face. From then on mom only spoke when she had something to say, other than that it was just us sitting around from time to time talking and hoping she was taking it all in. When mom did let go all I could do is thank God for answering my prayers. I know my mom is with me everyday and sometimes I even think I can hear her talking to me. Yes, I do miss her in the flesh but I still Thank God for answering my prayers. Thank you for you time and letting me tell you my story about my mom. Report
Yes, I can relate. I've had a tough year too.

Almost a year ago, I lost a friend. One day, she just stopped answering my messages, and I never found out why. Perhaps she wasn't a true friend after all. It was very sad for me. I also had some physical problems that prevented me from enjoying my running and other forms of exercise. As those problems were beginning to be resolved, I ran into problems at work, where I lost 3 cherished colleagues for a variety of reasons, ended up doing the work of 3 people, and got burned out. Things have only just started being normal again. In the interim, my husband was deployed to Iraq in August for a 6 month tour of duty, and we really miss him. The demands on my time have multiplied, and many are the nights that I fall into bed exhausted, and past my bedtime. It seems like it's only a few minutes later when the alarm clock rings, and it's time to get up and do it all over again. My husband is the one who usually cooks, so Thanksgiving without him just won't be the same. The kids are struggling too. It's just about all the school counselor and I can do to keep my son from flunking out of school, because he is distracted and depressed, and he misses his Dad.

On this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my true friends, and for the help that comes from unexpected places. I'm thankful for my kids, who demonstrate each day that they've internalized the values that I've been teaching them. I'm thankful for my husband - may he return safely.

Some days I just don't want to get up, but I do. And I keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter how much it hurts, because others depend on me too, and that's what it's all about.

MOONRIDR, please don't imply that those who are believers are "unthinking". I'm very sorry that you're having such a difficult time and I truly wish I could make it better for you.

What my teens and I like to do when we feel like everything sucks is go down to the homeless shelter and help prepare and serve meals. It helps us realize that we really do have a lot to be thankful for, no matter how bad it seems to be for us.

I hope you find joy and peace. Report
Note to SHEILAK64: Just so you know, He is most definitely NOT always with us.... that's what makes this stuff so hard for those of us who are not unthinking believers....
This article really hit, as this has been The Year of Losses. I've lost, through death or other issues: my life partner, my entire family, my beloved cat, my job, and pretty much life as I have known it. I have surely made a LOT of lemonade out of lemons this year.... but I am emotionally and physically exhausted, and dreading the holidays. Fortunately, just keeping a roof over my head and keeping up with nursing school will take out the sting as I will be too busy working to even know what month is is!

May peace be with all who are coping with loss this holiday season... and every day of the year!! Report
When my mother died a few years back (she was 57, I was 24), my son stated to me at the funeral, "Look, Grandma is in a treasure chest." He was just shy of three years old then. When he said that, me, my husband, and my aunt (my mom's sister) all just looked at each other. I told him, "You're right, she is in a treasure chest. That way, we can always treasure her." No matter what, if your loved ones are no longer here physically, we will always treasure those moments we did have with them when they were alive. My mother's death reminded me that life is precious, and so long as I am still here on Earth, there is so much treasure to live for!

Good luck in everything you do. Your loved ones will always be by your side! Report
I got married for the first time last year at age 54 after meeting my husband in New Orleans the year before and moving to Florida. He was diagnosed with liver cancer at the end of the year and passed away on June 27 at age 58. Being from California, I have no friends or family here and am very much alone. To top it off, I was laid off in October, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and my father-in-law is now in the hospital. He is depressed and pretty much stopped eating. I feel like I am merely existing and may or may not ever start "living" again. In any case, I have very little faith in anything at this point and even less to be "thankful" for. I post this so that others can feel lucky that they are not me. Report
It can be very hard to lose loved ones. It so important to appreciate every one in the time we have with them. Thank you. Report
God bless you! He is always with us! Just wanted to let you know this blog really touched my heart. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Report
Celebrate what we can celebrate and be blessed to have friends, family and loved ones in our life for the time they are with us. Memories can make us smile and new memories are what keep us going. For those who are having a hard time my heartfelt empathy to you and hope you can make it through the holidays with the support of your friends and family. I don't think a lot of us always undestand what others are going through. Many times people keep it in and on the outside seem fine. I encourage those of you who do that to share when you can. It lets others know where you stand and we can help by being there to listen or give you a hug. Life is not always easy..especially at holidays. God bless to all. Report
Having lost a daughter and brother within the past 12 years, I can definitely understand how your holidays might be difficult this year. You have lost someone who is close to you. Just remember that they may not be there in body, but will always be with you in spirit.

My daughter put it best after my brother died. She said: "I can't see him anymore, but I know he is always with me as my guardian angel. If I ever need him, he will be there in spirit and he will always be sharing in all of my good times. " Such a smart young lady! Report
I lost my first husband of 32 years to cancer in 1998, and he loved Christmas so...I always have a bit of a tough time with the holidays, even though, I am happily remarried. My Dad died in 2009, and it is still very fresh, and we miss him always, but this time of year is especially hard. We do our usual Christmas and always think of our loved ones, who are gone. I always cry my eyes out decorating our tree, it was always first DH's domain. I keep everything up, in his memory. Report
This is the 1st Thanksgiving that I am unable to deal with having family or friends around me.....dinner has always been in hubby's mansion these past 11 yrs. I need to be alone and try to work on where my life is going to go from here....it has been a rough year with the passing of MIL at the age of 100 yrs 5 months 10 days on hubby's 60th birthday....We had been her caregivers for the past 11 yrs....(hubby an only child) MIL's wish was to live to 100 and on that day she showed signs of A-Fib issues that ended up not getting under control....since her passing I've had issues with communicating with my own mother who has a hearing issue that she doesn't want to deal with and makes my visits very stressful....I try to avoid visiting her and feel really bad that my sister has to care for mother alone.....being a sibling of 4 and closer than the 2 brothers are mile wise. I'm hoping that Thanksgiving Day will be a day that hubby and I can sit and really talk about our future.....we really need to get on the same page in order to make our future work....job issues are a concern for the future & life seems unpredictable more than usual.....Being Thankful for a new day to look forward to is about all I have at the moment......and I am really Thankful that I have SP to vent and enjoy daily.....May You All Have A Very Happy Thanksgiving. Report
I learned when I was very young (just before 21) that it's not right to say next year will be better. Hey, it's the end of the year and you made it and despite all that happened, you are still standing. It's to be celebrated. The year I learned about that I had had a devastating personal experience, and my grandma who was everything to me had died. My best friend had lost sight in one eye. We said Good riddance, no year could be as bad as last year. We were wrong- the following year was for both of us. We were very lucky and blessed to learn this so early in our lives. This year, my husband went into rehab in January. Since then there have been regular relapses, I have had job and economic challenges, it's my first year without my mother. We are ending the year with his cancer operation. We are still standing. It's been a bad year but so far we have made it through. There are bright days. The sun rises and sets. Happy Thanksgiving! Report
This will be a particularity difficult Thanksgiving, we lost our last parent between my DH and I last Christmas. However, the love we have with family and friends and the hope we have in our faith and Jesus will be enough to carry us through what could be a storm of sadness.
Here's to a better 2011 with many new and happy memories and victories! Report
Awesome post. To be honest, the holidays has never been something I really enjoyed and if it wasn't for my children I probably would not even celebrate them. My grandfather who was the light of my life when I was a child died when I was 8 years old, 2 days after Christmas. I spend the whole day with him and remember it like it was yesterday. My grandmother whom I loved dearly died the day after Thanksgiving in 2000. Now, this year on my sons birthday (Sept 13) my father died from complications of leukemia and chemotherapy treatments. This will be my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my father and I am not sure how that will go over. My birthday in October came and went without his phone call like he always did every year. It was very hard for me. So I understand where you are coming from and wish you the best of luck. Great post. Report
Somehow, these blogs have been reaching me at just the right time. My parents are divorcing after 35 years of marriage, and while my sister and I are both now married and out of the home, it's still pretty shocking and difficult to handle. While Thanksgiving will be easier since I'm spending it with my wonderful in-laws, this is going to be my first Christmas (EVER, in 26) without both my parents. As you can guess, I've been very over-loaded with stress lately, and the fact that my training hasn't been leading to weight loss was making me angry.

Reading this reminded me to calm down, because I'm still on a great journey, making positive choices along the way. I'm going to talk to my families about how we can make the holidays work as a "new normal," instead of dwelling on the divorce. I love the holidays, and do not want to see that joy marred by my parents' disagreements. We're still family, after all. Report
Nancy I understand you very well because I lost my husband and 1 year later my son had blood cancer, it was so difficult to me but my friends supported me, now my son is better and I'm glad that he is recovering I hope you also be happy some day,GOD bless you. Report
Thank you, thank you for this blog. After reading this, I was overcome and just had to thank God for every blessing. I unexpectedly lost an extremely close cousin back in February, and it really shook my family to the core. I'm thankful that instead of pushing each other away, we've held on even tighter. Family and friends have been my only solace this year, and I'm grateful for every second I have with them. I hope you, your family and friends have a happy Thanksgiving and holiday season. Report
Nancy, you hit it out of the ballpark with this blog entry. Each day offers a lesson to be learned and a blessing to be thankful for. Thank you for being my friend and if there is EVER anything I can do, just simply ask.
Thanks for this. I've also had a tough year and am only just really reaching out for support - I nearly lost both my mother and my father-in-law last Christmas but they both pulled through, but then my sister took her own life in July and I am still reeling from it. It's hard to ask for help sometimes especially if you feel low but I committed to SP in September and it's helping loads. Thanks for reminding me to look for the positives and thanks everyone for being so supportive. Report
Thank you for sharing this blog. Two years ago my mother died. My sister decided she would not celebrate any holidays for the next year because it was our mom had died. I think it made it worse. We never "healed" together. My friends helped me through that stressful and heart breaking time. I have a "Breakfast Club" we meet every Monday morning. They are the most wonderful friends a girl could ask for! You can bring any problem or thought to the table - and there are always hugs when you need it. They helped me through this tough time - and thankfully, my family shares the holidays again. Report
My father passed away last month and had my family to lean on as I was his primary care giver. Had it not been for my husband and daughter I don't know how I could have handled it. They were there with me when the going got really tough. My son, my brother and especially my sister-in-law (who called me every day) live in other states but were there with calls and encouragement. They visited Dad when he was still able to acknowledge them and appreciate their visit. I am thankful for having them in my life and thankful for my friends who have always been there with us during the good and tough times.
Thanks for the blog Nancy. This is a tough year for us with FIL in intensive care right now, not doing well in his recovery from cancer surgery. He won't be home for Thanksgiving, so it will just be DH and me. It's hard to find things to be happy about/thankful for right now, but your blog is a good reminder to look below the surface... And I for one am looking forward to meeting you in Miami! Report
Thanks for the reminder to count my blessings even in my sorrow. The loss of a loved one touches us each and every day and I honor them by looking for the joy, the moments to be thankful for. Report
I have learned to count my blessings no matter what I'm going through. It took me long time to be able to do that. I know that there are a lot of people going through worse things that I'll never have to go through. I know that I am truly blessed and I try not to take those blessing for granted. Report
Two years ago, my husband had his last holiday with us, on Thanksgiving. Last year I wanted to skip the whole thing and go out to a Chinese Buffet.
However, I was overruled. The family came here in numbers to celebrate our togetherness.
And what a celebration it was. I felt renewed and re-energized from the experience. This year we are again gathering at my house, and I am looking forward to it.
One of the lessons my husband taught us was family cohesiveness...and what a blessing that is! Report
Amen! Glad you took some time to rethink your blessings. I've been doing the same thing and it's so easy to forget the good things but so necessary. YAY you! Report
Great blog, Nancy. It's the journey and the people we share it with that matter, and it's easy to forget that in our efforts to 'arrive' somewhere (a new PR, the perfect weight, the perfect job). Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours; the first holidays after losing someone you love can be rough. Report
very moving blog nancy.
i am hoping 2011 is a great one for you and your family.
happy thanksgiving! Report
I have indeed lost loved ones and just like everyone else, I too, have experienced difficult family situations but I am ever mindful to count my blessings and celebrate life...each and every day! Thanks for the blog it was heartfelt, kind and helpful. Report
Thank you so much for this, and I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my husband of 18 years to cancer on June 1st, and really haven't been looking forward to the holiday season. I'd decided to basically ignore them, but my sister called and said she and her husband are coming for Thanksgiving -- from 1500 miles away! :) I've also got his family, and they have been so supportive, along with numerous friends. It is sometimes hard to reach out, especially when everyone I know thinks I'm so "strong." At any rate, very good blog, very timely, and you obviously touched many hearts with it. God bless you thru this season and always. Report
truer words were never spoken - every ATTEMPT should be celebrated! Report
very true having family and friends to help guide you through is much needed. we lost our only son 2 years ago and trying to muster up a brave front for the holidays isn't easy but with their help it makes it a bit easier. the firsts are definatly the hardest when it comes around again the sting starts to soften a bit. happy thanksgiving to all and know you have special angels watching over you now Report
I know what you are feeling. My sister past away a few days before Thanksgiving 6 years ago and my dad past away 4 months later. Our family lost our mom in October 2008 from Lymphoma cancer, she was 87 when see past. My sister's and I took care of her during her cancer treatments. We come from a very large family and we always got together for Christmas when my mom was alive. Since her passing, we haven't gotten together. I'm hoping we can get together this Christmas..we'll see. I would have family at my place, but I'm in the middle of construction right now, so it's not a good time. Report
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