“You continue to move forward, step by step, even in the most painful of times”

Sarah Riley sadly lost her dad, Steve, in 2019 after he was cared for at Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire. Here, she talks about the pain of living with her grief and how running has provided a focus through dark times, helping her to keep on going, step by step.

Sarah Riley with golden 'You did it' balloons

“Christmas is never going to be easy when you’ve lost someone you love, as it’s a time of joy and togetherness”

Grief is excruciating and you never know how you’ll feel. At times you will gasp, sob or even laugh. I think it’s fair to say that Christmas is never going to be easy when you’ve lost someone you love, as it’s a time of happiness, joy and togetherness. However, it’s also a time where we need to remember that it is ok to feel lost, to feel like you need a new normal. I believe we need to try not to have expectations of how we should feel and focus on remembering happy memories that we had in previous years.

Losing my pops was the hardest thing I have ever had to continue to cope with. I say continue because we never deal with grief, we just learn to live with it. It may sound crazy and a year ago I’d have hated myself for saying this, but I have found that there is always joy, laughter and happiness even in the saddest of times.

It will never get easier and I’m sure you will never get over the loss of a loved one. However, over time, we learn to live with the pain in our everyday lives. 

“18 months ago, when I began running, I learnt that it’s a lesson. You continue to move forward, step by step, even in the most painful of times”

18 months ago, when I began running, I learnt that it’s a lesson. You continue to move forward, step by step, even in the most painful of times, which is just like grief. When you begin running it’s hard, you no longer have the capacity to let your mind wander into those dark places, mainly because you’re focusing on catching your breath and not falling over and because you're focusing on getting to the finish line. You just keep going.

Sarah Riley in her Sue Ryder gear, out running in the countryside.

Dedicating time to ourselves

As we approach the festive season, I think it’s so important that we each dedicate time to ourselves, with whatever is going on in our lives. To find comfort, solace, peace and a sense of purpose.

Sue Ryder has continued to support me and my family since we lost pops, and even offered a charity place for the London Marathon 2020. This of course did not go quite to plan, however instead I completed the London Virgin Money virtual marathon around my home streets of Buckinghamshire.

December Daily Dash

The December Daily Dash is exactly that, another widely available opportunity for individuals to channel their emotions into, whilst raising money for an incredible charity. For me it’s a chance to run every day throughout December, but you could run, walk or jog. Everyone can be included in this challenge, starting on 1st December and finishing on 31st December. Every single day you will be outside completing your 5K distance and taking time out to manage your emotions.

As well as running, I have taken to blogging my journey through grief on both Instagram and Facebook. I give my honest thoughts and feelings and try to let people see exactly how it feels to be exploring running whilst learning to deal with a life without my dad. If I can offer you one piece of advice as the festive period approaches, it's 'think about yourself'.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the motions and deprive yourself of time alone, time to do what you want to do. The December Daily Dash will help you to automatically include this into your day, so for me I will definitely be participating!

View of runners' trainers on a path through a forest

Inspired by Sarah's story?

Why not take on your own running challenge? We are searching for people to lace up their trainers and take on the December Daily Dash, a challenge to run, walk or jog 5k every day for a month and help Sue Ryder raise vital funds.

Sue Ryder supporter Sarah Riley

Daughter of patient

Sarah Riley

Sarah's father, Steve, died in March 2019. She ran the London Virgin Money Virtual Marathon 2020 in his memory and to fundraise for Sue Ryder South Oxfordshire Palliative Care Hub, who cared for him in his final weeks.