Soothing The Pain With Pilates

Shortly after Brian died, his girlfriend’s mother told me that he was so proud of me for teaching Pilates. I knew then that Pilates would be my lifeline to crawl out of this grief. It would be my way of honoring him. Brian would want me to take that path because we both loved exercise. That was how I felt most connected to him. So two weeks after his death, I went down to the basement, put on a DVD and did some matwork. The physical movement was really soothing. I would try to banish the awful loop in my head of that phone call, and instead think about sharing our exercise routines and laughing. But I couldn’t control my crying—I’d cry all the way through the Hundred. On top of my grief for Brian, I was also worried about my frail mother. She adored her only grandson, and at his service she told the funeral director, “You’ll see me in a couple of months…” She was right. She died two months and five days after Brian. There were times I wished I could join them both.

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In order to battle the overwhelming grief, I decided to build my strength up. Shortly after my mother died, I decided to get back to my Pilates class at the Y. It was so hard to be out in public that long, but I made it through that first class without breaking down. And after a few months, I worked myself up to teaching again. It was my respite. At the same time, I was riding my bike more than 100 miles a week, and I also walked, jogged and ran to push away the intense emotions. I was crazed with the need to move. But as the months passed, practicing Pilates also helped me to shift from the intense biking and running that that I been doing. No amount of pounding into the ground for days, weeks and months could take away the pain, nor was it good for my body. The more I got into Pilates, the calmer I became. It helped me release muscular tension and calm the physical symptoms of deep grief. What was interesting is that I didn’t get physically sick in the aftermath of Brian’s death. It’s common for those suffering severe grief to come down with some sort of ailment six to eight months later. Everyone in my family got sick except me, and I attribute it to doing Pilates. My practice helped me become grounded again. The exercises and verbal cues required concentration and staying in the moment. But I’ll be honest: The grief had control of me for a long time. I cried every day the first two years after Brian’s death.


Then in 2010, a fitness friend of mine started nudging me to sign up for further Pilates certification through STOTT PILATES. For years I had wanted to study with them and learn more about anatomy and to dig deeper into my Pilates training…but then I’d chicken out. After Brian died, I reached the point where I thought, What do I have to be afraid of? After what I’ve survived, I’m going to get scared or feel bad if I can’t do a move perfectly? I felt I had to be perfect since I was doing this to honor Brian and spread the message about Pilates.

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