Exercise Therapy for Grief and Loss
Geoff Starling CSCS

“Madam foreperson, how do you find the Defendant”? We hold our breath. Hands squeezed together. We’ve spent 3 weeks in the Supreme Court and 2.5 years waiting to get there. Over a dozen witnesses have been cross-examined. Forensics, pathology and a team of investigators have presented evidence. Accounts of the event have been hashed out by the Crown Prosecutor then countered by the Defence. The verdict is clear to everyone in the Public Gallery who have been attending each day in support of their friend and his family but it now comes down to the 12 members of the jury. A brief pause settles on the room. “Guilty, your honour”. A collection of cheers and deep exhales rises from the benches. We can finally take a step forward.

On July 24, 2014 my younger brother, Laurie, was shot and killed by members of the Rebels motorcycle club while locking up his vehicle fabrication shop on the NSW Central Coast, just north of Sydney, Australia. He had unwittingly been caught up in a feud between two warring parties which had been brewing for several months. Some accounts describing his death as ‘collateral damage’. The pain of his loss has been consuming in various ways since he was taken. Often making me feel like a superhero in reverse; spending most of my time flying a cape to make it through the day then occasionally returning to street clothes and becoming a regular human being.

Many of us have suffered grief and loss as the result of the passing of someone close. Each of these passings are unique and powerful in their own right and binding as a collective pain with those who travel the path with you. To those who have not personally experienced such a loss, it is hard to understand the depth of sorrow, the symptoms and manifestations of the emotional trauma, and the mental and physical suffering of the survivors. Friends and family who wish to be a comfort and support to those who are grieving are often unsure of how to do so. Thankfully there are a number of ways where those who have been affected can feel part of a community where they don’t have to explain themselves as everyone understands what they’re going through.

During the past 2 years I have been fortunate to be part of a support group for victims of homicide - so called because we are directly impacted by the crime - who meet once a month to celebrate each other’s’ strength and share our pain in a safe environment. Around 6 months ago we formed a weekly workout group that has become known as Exercise Therapy for Grief and Loss. The weeks between our formal support group meetings are now filled with strength training, movement mechanics and some highly therapeutic punching, kicking, throwing and generally cutting loose through exercise.

The feeling of empowerment and returned sense of control for the members of the group has been greater than ever expected and we have become even more thankful for each other through the shared experience. As one member recently exalted, “these sessions are the highlight of my week. I wouldn’t get out of bed on Saturdays if I didn’t know there was a group of friends waiting for me at the gym. We laugh, we cry, and in between we get fit”!

Exercise Therapy for Grief and Loss is just one example of a community coming together over a common bond. Anyone can form their own group out of people with a shared experience or purpose and the nature of the meeting isn’t nearly as important as the people that you are doing it with. What counts is that you’re doing it together.

If you have been impacted by homicide or know someone else who has, please get in touch with the Calgary Homicide Support Society (www.calgaryhss.com) and share your story with them. They have access to several resources including the monthly support group. If you are interested in joining our band of misfits on Saturdays please contact me through Contact Us.

Geoff is a father of two busy kids under six. He is a writer, speaker and fitness professional living in Calgary, Canada.