For Gunnar-

Grief has consumed this last month. When sorrow comes into my world, it is like a vicious, crashing waterfall; I drown in desperation. January 27 marked one year since my nephew physically left this world.


It’s hard to be normal running Denali, and it takes all my strength to stay committed to my daily runs. Yet, as proud as my nephew would have been for my commitment, I find myself questioning why to go on this Saturday long-run?

It’s because that’s what my nephew would have wanted me to do.IMG_6269

When grief came crashing into our lives last year, I found that running helped my mind sort through the new reality that Gunnar, my nephew, was no longer going to give me one of his famous hugs. There’d never be another chance to twist his wild hair and squeal that he had better curls than I. Gunnar was never going to follow my races again. I was never going to receive a pumped up message from him when I achieved my goals. So all of last year, I ran to honor him.

Grief makes my mind want to control things. Pain also makes my heart desperate for connection. I make poor decisions, and my anxiety drains me. I push forward when I should take a break. I connect with characters who want nothing to do with me, and I push myself onto things instead of seeing the love ones right in front of me; my anxiety digs me a deep hole.

In grieving, I spend too much energy on things that don’t deserve me.

I don’t particularly appreciate grieving.


I know if Gunnar were still here, he’d be winning all his bike races but making sure everyone got their chance to ride. He was wise beyond his youth, selfless, and a natural-born leader. He was never to boastful, a humble athlete in his own right. He was going to make an impact on anyone who he crossed paths with. It’s why this week’s long run is so hard; I can’t stop thinking about how he was just getting started. I try to honor him by committing to this run, but my steps slow as I hurt for his friends who are too young to have to experience this type of loss.

As I hear his voice telling me, “a walk is better than nothing,” I worry for his mother, who lost the love of her life. Yet, she is your mother, so it’s a fact that she is powerful. I pray for the holes in everyone’s hearts, may they be filled with the loving memories of you. I have formed relationships with your other aunties and understand where you got your trait of flowing love.

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Goon Tattoo 

Maybe that’s what my grief tries to replicate, Gunnar’s never-ending outpour of love. He never took back loving 100%, even if it was people who didn’t deserve him. My grief may copy his control over challenges, and I’d like to think he got a little bit of that competitive drive from watching our running races.


Grief may splinter into our lives every January. Yet, every time we feel that discomfort, I know we are all reminded of the example he left for us. So as I worry about my family, wondering about this new reality, I understand that Gunnar left a significant impact on all he encountered. For that, we are all fortunate to have had him in our lives.

I only wish I had had more time with you. Hold the ones you still have, don’t ever stop telling people you love them. ♥

2 thoughts on “For Gunnar-

  1. Dear Denali, I appreciate this post about your nephew. You not only are a good writer, but exceptionally wise. Thank you for sharing your understanding and experience dealing with grief and love. I hope I remember what you have given me in these two powerful lines:

    In grieving, I spend too much energy on things that don’t deserve me.

    I don’t particularly appreciate grieving.

    • Thank you. Writing is so personal and takes so much out of me, but I like to share when it’s worth sharing. I hope you find peace in this world we are all living in right now. Stay healthy and nice to yourself.

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