WEST BOUNTIFUL — Everybody deals with grief in a different way.
Lora Erickson has managed her grief – the grief she felt when her first child lived only five hours – by running.
And that running is now something she shares with others who are grieving.
For the fourth year, Erickson has organized “Race for Grief,” a walk/run held to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost.
“I didn’t want to forget her,” said Erickson of her daughter, Samantha. “When I was holding her when she was dying, I promised her I wouldn’t let people forget her. I would make something good of this.”
This year’s run, held for the first time on Memorial Day, drew participants from around Utah and Idaho, and from as far away as California, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
Ann Packard came from California to support her son and his wife, who had lost a four-month-old child to sudden infant death syndrome almost a year ago.
“I’m humbled and touched by the number of people who are here supporting families,” she said. “Loss always brings us together.”
Rebecca Becker estimated that 45 people had come to support her family.
It has been a year since her daughter, Gracie, died in an accident, just a few weeks shy of her fourth birthday.
The little shoes she would have worn then, were tucked into the belt her mother wore for the run/walk.
The support for her family, and the support other runners felt was “amazing,” said Becker.
“We are crying together,” she said, “and it’s OK to cry.”
Erickson estimated 350 participated in this year’s run/walk, which started at West Bountiful Park and involved either a two-mile walk or a 5K or 10K run.
Over the four years Erickson has organized the run, it has continually grown and she hopes it will one day reach 500 participants.
While it first focused on those who have lost infants or children, it is now open to all who want to remember a loved one of any age.
Posters and balloons pay tribute to family members who have died.
Besides the run, the event brings together different services available to families experiencing loss.
“It really helps me deal with the grief, the loss of my daughter,” said Erickson. “I know it helped our family to be there as a family for her. It was therapeutic for us.”
Samantha would have turned 16 this year.
Erickson’s family now also includes three sons and a daughter.
“I’m so happy to have them,” she said, “I love being a mom.”
The race, said Erickson, is something they can all be involved in.
“I think it’s important not to put those that die on a pedestal,” she said. “They’re not more important than living people, but it’s important to remember and honor them and show respect.”
People who don’t have an outlet for their grief sometimes have a harder time, she said, but she has found a physical outlet is really important.
“You still want to love them, you still want to care for them and you can’t,” she said, “I get to do this one thing for her every year.”
More information on the race can be found at raceforgrief.com.