Dealing with Grief: When Life Irrevocably Changes

Jul 02, 2015
Tagged with: Dealing with Grief: When Life Irrevocably Changes

I originally wrote about my friend Stella in an article called “Active and Healthy Aging: Keys to Living Well”, see Active and Healthy Aging: Keys to Living Well.

On March 25, 2015, my life irrevocably changed.  Stella, my 92-year-old, friend died.  I received the news by phone from her daughter and all I remember hearing was “She’s gone.”  Four days prior to that, Stella was going about her usual routines – going to the library, going to the grocery store, completing typical tasks.

My friend was a World War II Veteran.  I attended her funeral and broke down with sadness when the Honor Guard played “Taps”.  As I heard each note, I knew that my life, as I knew it, would never be the same.  I helped Stella’s daughter pack up her apartment.  There was a finality to the process of carefully placing all of Stella’s belongings into boxes.

In the weeks and months that followed, I went to work, to the fitness center, and tried my best to continue my daily routines and all of my typical tasks.  In truth, my support system had been totally shaken up.  Someone that I loved dearly was gone.  My goals, and all the things that I valued, no longer held the same importance.  I was grieving.

One article that I came across said “Grieving involves adjusting to a new world, one that might be without a person, or has a different vision of a particular future.” [i]  The stages of grief are well documented. The initial stage of grief is one of denial. I would catch myself thinking Stella cannot really be gone. The second stage of grief is anger. I was angry my friend was gone. I was not ready for my friend to die, even though she was 92.  When Stella died, I remember feeling a loss of energy and losing a sense of enthusiasm — what I term “my spark”.   I also remember feeling detached from people and my surroundings.  All of these feelings and characteristics are classic signs of grief.

When I write for this blog, most of the experiences that I’ve shared focus on a specific process and steps toward the achievement of my goal – to walk without assistive devices full-time.   I chose to write about Stella’s death because she represented a pillar of my support system.

We all, regardless of whether we have a disability or not, need a support system— a network of people who will provide us with practical or emotional support. This support system may consist of family members, friends, coaches, or others who will assist us in the achievement of our goals and also support us in our darker moments of challenge.

My support system helped me navigate the experience of grief and loss. My family and friends quickly recognized that because of the loss of Stella, I needed an anchor, and they all came through for me in different ways. When Stella died, I received daily phone calls and e-mails from people who just “checked in”.

Our reaction to loss may be to initially try our best to avoid it. We may think, “If I do not acknowledge the changes resulting from the loss, it will just eventually disappear or go away.” The harsh reality is that the more we try to avoid the situation and finality of death, the larger it becomes.

Those phone calls and e-mails helped me to deal with the immediate shock resulting from Stella’s death. The “check-ins” helped me stay focused on the present moment. My network of family and friends understood the shakeup that I was experiencing from Stella’s death. They also understood the intensity of the emotions that I was feeling. They offered me ways to articulate and express my sadness, my anger, and grief.

An article I read labeled exercise as “medicine for the mind”. Exercise was a positive distraction for me after Stella died. When I would go to the fitness center, I only focused on completing my exercise and training routines. The challenging routines were a positive outlet for my anger and grief. After finishing the exercises and training, I felt better. The negative feelings and emotions I came in with dissipated through physical movement.

My support system of family, friends, and coaches helped me to heal emotionally, physically, and spiritually after Stella died. They helped me to “adjust to a new world”, reorganize my goals, and forge ahead.

Some helpful resources for grief include:

The Children’s Grief Education Association is dedicated to serving the needs of grieving children and families and to providing education and support to those who serve them.

The Dougy Center, the National Center for Grieving Children and Families, provides a safe place for children, teens, young adults and their families who are grieving a death to share their experiences. They do this through peer support groups, education, and training.



[i] Heath, L. (2014). Keeping Our Balance: The Profound Challenge of Loss. Transactional Analysis Journal, 44(4), 291-301. doi:10.1177/0362153714559922


Author: Kerry

  • bobl07

    Thank you for this beautiful insight on Stella. It is such a blessing when we can have someone touch our lives. I understand your loss. I can relate.