Donor Family Voices: What Can Help Me Regain My Energy?

One challenge of grief is that it is emotionally and physically draining. Regaining energy takes patience, but small steps can make a big difference. We asked donor families for ideas and tips for simple ways to begin moving again to feel better. Here are some of their thoughts in their own words:

Almost immediately after the death of our daughter, my husband and I started taking walks in the evening. It began as an outlet to communicate, more than a form of exercise, but slowly I realized it also began to increase my energy level a little. Sometimes it helped me sleep. When the grief was too overwhelming, and we didn't talk at all, but it still helped to be out of the house and find a little distraction in another world. As the months passed, our walks became longer and I even started to find reminders of hope in nature, with the change of season or the flight of a bird. Today, it's been almost 19 years since our grief journey began, and we still are making time for our walks.
- Patti Norquist    

For two months after the death of my husband, a very wise man told me to keep a "Brag Book". He suggested that every small step forward was an accomplishment for that day. So each day, I wrote something that I had done in that book. The first entries had to do with just getting out of bed. As the days became weeks, I wrote about only being able to take a shower. I spent my energy, as I would spend money on a budget; very carefully. I was able to be patient with myself because of the entries in that book. When I did venture outside my home, the first place that I went was to a local exercise place. At first, I could only exercise for about 15 minutes and I was crying the whole time. Gradually, I was able to handle a 30 minute routine. My tears, in due course, turned to smiles as my friends and the staff helped me to regain my physical strength. I still try to go at least three times a week.
- Leah Zenker    

My wife of 44 years passed away on December 22, 2012 of colon cancer and became a cornea and skin transplant donor. One of the hardest things in the world to do was to imagine another day without her. With the help of my family, therapist, and men's grief support group, I was able to slowly start moving again by cleaning the house, taking walks, riding my beach cruiser, grocery shopping and yard work.
- Frank Corrales    

I kept very busy because I felt like I was losing my mind. I was crazy with grief. Instead of letting grief take the upper hand, I got active - walking, practicing yoga and hiking. These helped immensely so that I could sleep at night. Grief wears you out, no doubt about that. I made a conscious effort in the first months to eat better, kept moving and stayed in touch with friends and family (even though I really didn't want to do so). You have to fight grief, yet honor it.
- Ann Sechrist    

My brother Alan passed away April 13, 2013 at the young age of 26. It has been a devastating time since his passing and I found myself sleeping for 2 weeks straight after he died. I decided I needed to make sure, even if I didn't want to, that I focused my energy on some form of exercise or physical activity to keep my mind going. I've started small with a weekly gym day with my friend for 2 hours and go maybe one or 2 times on my own if I'm feeling up to it. I find having someone with me at the gym gives me a social release and the exercise gives me the physical activity I need to keep me from feeling lethargic and depressed during the day. It's truly helped me survive this grief.
- Lisa W.    

Almost three years after my mother became a donor, my body and spirit still had not recovered. I hardly recognized the person I had become and knew that a change was in order. Now, 2½ years later, I am 40 lbs lighter, have the energy and strength of a 20 year old and just registered for my first Half Marathon in Philadelphia after two years of many 5k runs. When I am near the end of a long run, I use her memory and support to push me through to the end.
- Kelly Schmitt    

To read all the responses or add your own, visit www.donorfamilyforums.org