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“Weightlifting helped me process my grief”

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Megan Murray
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Author and journalist Poorna Bell lost her husband Rob to suicide in May 2015. Here, she explains how weightlifting helped her throughout her grief, providing her with not only physical, but mental strength, too. 

Grief is an inexplicable thing. Felt in a different way by every person on the planet, dealing with the loss of a loved one affects us all uniquely.

But, although it is such a hard thing to put into words, if there’s one person who is particularly skilled with eloquence on this difficult subject it’s Poorna Bell, who has spoken at length about losing her husband four years ago. 

Speaking to stylist.co.uk, Bell describes how she felt at the time of this tragic event: “You find yourself in the middle of this storm. Everything is terrible, and it’s in free fall, so anything that offers you an anchor is really precious.”

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For Bell it was weightlifting that became her anchor, something that helped her focus and concentrate when everything else around her felt uncertain. 

She continues, “Grief is quite chaotic, you feel a thousand different emotions at any one time. When I’m weightlifting it’s so peaceful and actually not very much is going through my mind, beyond the practicalities of putting weights on a barbell, putting the clips on. 

“You know, figuring out what my stance is like. My mind just goes absolutely blank, it’s just pure silence.”

We know that exercise has a positive effect on our mental health, with the likes of Jessica Ennis having spoken at length about the boost a run or even brisk walk can give you after a bad day. But for Bell it’s much more than this, weightlifting has actually helped her “process” her grief, acting as a vital part of her healing process.

“Weightlifting definitely instilled a sense of order when there was none. It was also actually really helping me process my grief, to just positive progress being made. Watching my strength increase and my confidence grow around it,” says Bell.

However, despite the wonderful way in which weightlifting has impacted her life, Bell feels understandably frustrated that many women are still too intimidated to try it out.  

Bell points out: “Weightlifting is hugely empowering for women, but the fear of getting bulkier is something that really inhibits and prevents women from either trying weights in the first place or from progressing beyond a certain point. There have been several times where I have just thought, ‘is this the right thing for me to be doing?’

“I am just over it. The fact is, I’m able to lift twice my own body weight. Working towards a goal of strength and the way it empowers me and it improves my self-esteem, gives me more worth than peddling towards the illusion of being slim ever did,” she continues.

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Bell’s observations about the fear of looking masculine, that women have been programmed to internalise by the patriarchal society around us, is something we at Stylist are set on changing by making strength training and fitness a bigger part of our content, and opening our own strength studio called Stylist Strong in AllBright’s Mayfair branch in West London.

Currently there are four types of classes that you can attend at the Stylist Strong studio, each one focused on empowering women to be stronger mentally and physically, if you want to find out more about becoming a member take a look here.

You can hear more about Bell’s journey with weightlifting in the video above, and if you have felt triggered by the topic of suicide in this article seek confidential support by calling the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90 or visit a local Samaritans branch.

Images: Instagram 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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