'Exercise helped me cope with grief': Mum-of-four took up gym after son Elliott's death

'Exercise helped me cope with grief': Mum-of-four took up gym after son Elliott's death
Dolores Grace on a run. Pictures: Seamus Farrelly

A mum of four, who tragically lost her sports-mad son to cancer has revealed that joining a gym helped her to cope with her grief after his death.

Dolores Grace (44) and her family were left devastated when her oldest son Elliot died after a five-month battle with lymphoma on the eve of his 21st birthday on December 20, 2016.

The grief-sticken mum, from Athboy, Co Meath finally found a brief escape to her deep sorrow, when a friend dragged her along to the gym.

"It was about three months after Elliot died and I was barely able to function. A friend brought me along to a strength and conditioning class at the local Fitness Academy gym," she said.

"I almost laughed because I had never been to the gym before in my life. I wasn't sporty at all. I walked and did a bit of yoga but that was that.

Elliot loved sport and I know he'd kick my ass into it anyway.

"It was the first hour that I found I wasn't thinking about Elliot or anything because I was concentrating too much on not puking because of the intensity of the class," she laughed.

"I went back and made more friends and it became a little escape for me. I also started sleeping better as I hadn't slept much since Elliot got sick,

"A few of us starting to do the couch to 5k and we still meet a few times a week."

Dolores' son Elliott.
Dolores' son Elliott.

The exercise progressed until earlier this year when Dolores set her sights on completing four Quest Adventure Races.

"The races comprise of running, cycling and kayaking and I've finished the events in Kenmare, Kerry, Glendalough in Wicklow and Lough Derg in Clare I've just Killarney, Kerry to finish in a few weeks."

Just over two years since she turned to exercise and she still can't believe all she has achieved.

"I still don't believe it. I also used to have to walk with a stick because of my arthritis but now because of the exercise, I don't have to use one anymore and I'm on less medication.

"Even my husband Jim and my kids Eva, Amelia and Alex can't believe it but support me in every way possible.

"Exercise came at a time when I needed something to cope with my grief. Elliot loved sport and I know he'd kick my ass into it anyway. I know on days when I fall over or fall out of a kayak that he's looking down on me and roaring laughing.

"I feel stronger physically and that helps emotionally. There are still days when grief catches you differently and you let yourself have a cry but you get on with it then.

"Life is for living. I didn't think that at the time when I lost my son but I don't let myself wallow anymore. I live life like he would have wanted me too and I remember him every step of the way.."


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