About 10 years ago, in March 2008, our son Brian came home for the weekend from the University of NebraskaLincoln, where he was a junior studying wildlife management. He was about to take an ecology trip to Puerto Rico with some classmates. I remember it was a Saturday night, and before he went out for the evening, he asked me to show him some Pilates moves for his abs. He and his girlfriend had taken some Pilates classes at school, and he was surprised at how hard they were. I had a mat and a few accessories in the basement, so I showed him a whole bunch of core exercises. He then showed me some of the crazy things that he liked doing with dumbbells while jumping on and off the mat. It was so much fun to share our fitness routines and impress each other.
Pilates Exercises: Core-Blasting Home Pilates Workout Photo Gallery
A CALL AT NIGHT
A few days later, he headed off on his trip. On his first day there, I missed a call from him by a minute. When I tried to call him back, his phone was busy because he was talking to his sister. She told me he was going to call me back at 10:30 that night. I kept waiting, but never heard from him. I figured, “He’s with friends on a Saturday night in Puerto Rico. Why would he call his mom?” So I went to bed. Two hours later the phone rang. “Are you Brian Smith’s mother?” “Yes.” “Is he in Puerto Rico with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?” “Yes! Yes!”—by this time I’m yelling—“What’s wrongffWhat happened??” “I’m so sorry to tell you this— your son collapsed and he didn’t make it.” Brian had died of cardiac arrest at 20 years old. We had no idea that he had a lifelong heart condition.
TRYING TO OUTPACE GRIEF
To say we were devastated barely scratches the surface. In the midst of our unbearable heartbreak, we had to deal with the many rules and regulations that delayed the return of his body. On the night he finally came home, on Holy Thursday, I headed out the door. I had to move. I walked a mile super-fast, without stopping. This is how I’m going to get through this, I thought. Movement. Action. I knew that if things were reversed, my son would be out jogging to get over his grief. But initially, John and I were so overwhelmed that we just cried all the time. It was about getting through the next hour.
BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT
Everyone is different when it comes to dealing with grief. It sure is tempting to just crawl into a bottle, take some pills or hide from the world. I understand anything a parent does to withstand such a loss. There were so many days when I thought, I’m not getting up. I can’t face anyone. But I’d make myself get out of bed and move. Even in those nightmarish early days, breathing exercises from Pilates saved me. I started having panic attacks, so I’d focus on my breathing. It calmed down my constant emotional chaos and softened my anxiety. When you feel totally out of control, anything that helps is a gift.