How Starbucks Helped Me Grieve

How Starbucks helped me grieve

Three years ago my life was and would continue to be turned upside down. As a grief counselor, I  thought I was aware of the things I had  and would need in my life that would help me cope with the multiple losses. I was surrounded by the support and love of my friends, knew I needed to physically begin taking care of myself and started slowly putting the pieces of my life back together. However, I never expected my Starbucks store to become significant in my grief journey. 

Truth be told, I made it through undergraduate and graduate school without drinking coffee at all. I didn’t like the taste or smell of it. It was only after my husband insisted I at least try a frappuccino that I began to think coffee might not be so bad.

In the past, Starbucks on Friday mornings was my treat for making it through the week. I truly loved Friday mornings (because it was Friday) and because of the joy of the Starbucks staff at my local store. When we moved, I  was pleased to see that the manager Jonathan had trained at my old store. He immediately knew me and from that moment on he never failed to greet me regardless of what he was doing. His staff followed his example of friendliness and getting to know me as a customer (although at that time I was only there at the most twice a week).

For good or bad, during the stressful days of my Mom’s cancer, I visited my Starbucks more often. I was drained and needed the caffeine but also knew there was going to be a place where I received smiles and was welcomed. The baristas at my store know me as Sherri, as that is what my family calls me and how I think of myself. After the death of my Mom and Grandmother, with the exception of my husband, these individuals are now the only ones who continue to call me by that name.

In June of 2013, I found myself grieving my family and trying to decide what to do with my career. Starbucks became the stop for my friend Jennifer and I after mornings of meeting to work out. We were both in career transitions and spent many mornings reflecting, venting and dreaming and we did it over our coffee drinks sitting on the patio.

Without an office or job to go to, my Starbucks became a check in point. With the loss of my work family and biological family, I was noticed and greeted with smiles and on occasion (from a staff member I hadn’t seen in awhile) a hug.

None of the staff at Starbucks have known what was going on in my life. They knew about my adjunct teaching of  college classes and my counseling practice but I had no need to share that my life wasn’t going the way I had hoped it would.  My Starbucks store simply became an extension of my life to meet friends to catch up and as a home base when I needed to be somewhere other than my home.

There comes a time in the grief process when you no longer need certain coping skills or you need them in a different manner.

It was last year when one of my favorite Baristas Dave stated “You and your friends used to be here all of the time.” that I realized my life had changed. An addition of a new job and changes in everyone’s schedule made it to where I went through the drive through more than going inside. I’ve also been trying to move back to a time where Starbucks becomes more of a treat in my life. There is some sadness in regards to the need I once had is no longer there.

When I want or need Starbucks, I will go out of my way to go to my Starbucks store. Yes, the coffee is wonderful but the truth is that it is the staff inside that make it worth the trip. Jonathan, Dave, Matthew, Jeremey, Sydney (and many others that I can’t list), were always glad I was there and they created a place that became a calming place in a world turned upside down. 

The support that we find during a grief process often comes from surprising places. The staff at my Starbucks store supported me by becoming a calm and supporting spot in a world where I felt I had no calm. I will forever be grateful for those wonderful individuals and that I finally tasted that first cup of coffee so many years ago.

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27 Comments

  1. Alexis @ Chemistry Cachet on March 21, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Happy Anniversary! I am so glad you started this blog and we have been able to get to know each other. Coffee is always good for the soul, but a good coffee shop is even better!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 21, 2016 at 6:57 am

      Thank you Alexis!! It’s so wonderful to acknowledge the wonderful individuals I have met through this blog that I never would have met without this site. I suppose I should note that I do compare all coffee shops to my Starbucks! 🙂

  2. Emelia @ Dream Big & Buy the S on March 21, 2016 at 8:33 am

    That is so touching…I love the baristas at the one by my work..they always ask about my day and are so friendly. Have a great week…awesome giveaway 🙂

  3. Caroline @ In Due Time on March 21, 2016 at 10:30 am

    This. “There comes a time in the grief process when you no longer need certain coping skills or you need them in a different manner.” This is so good. This helped me today. Thinking about you and so thankful you are so open with your grieving process.

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:34 am

      Hearing your words here makes this post worth everything. I write about my grief so that others can realize we heal. I am so grateful I was able to post this on this day for you. XOXO

  4. Nina B on March 21, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I think we all have our “starbucks” in our life. It was touching to read how the baristas had been your touchstone throughout a difficult time and how that eventually changed into something different. My fave part? “There comes a time in the grief process when you no longer need certain coping skills or you need them in a different manner.”

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Our support systems aren’t always constant and are only needed for a time. I will always remember the day when it came to me that I didn’t need the support in the same manner. It showed the healing that had occurred – kind of like a wound that no longer needs that band aid. Would love to know what your “starbucks” is/was.

  5. Bourbon & Lipstick on March 21, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    I love this. And I agree with Nina that I think we all have a “starbucks” in our lives. This will probably sound strange, but, as I was going through some very tough stuff a couple of years ago, I found blogging to be my refuge. And it continues to this day. It’s important to have a place (be it in real life or online!) where you feel welcome and loved I

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:31 am

      It doesn’t sound strange at all. We often find comfort in places we never expected. Blogging is a form of journaling and with a tribe we are fortunate enough to have caring and loving people who support us and love us through the difficult times.

  6. Bethany Magnie on March 21, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Starbucks gets a bad rap sometimes but I have never had a bad experience there. My boyfriend gets a Starbucks at least three times a week so the staff knows our family very wel and always asks after our daughter. Even if I’m not with him they write little smiley faces on my coffee, I love Starbucks!!!!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:36 am

      I am right there with you Bethany!! They truly are a wonderful coporation and I hope they realize the difference they make in someone’s day.

  7. Neely on March 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I love going into starbucks especially my usual one where they are always so excited and nice. Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:36 am

      It’s always nice to have someplace you know others are going to be friendly. Good Luck with the giveaway.

  8. Angela Delp Boone on March 21, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it on Meet Up Monday. My dad has stage four colon cancer. My “Starbucks” has been our local library. Escape is where we find it 🙂

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:37 am

      I’m so glad you have a place to find comfort and refuge. Thinking of you and your father, I truly know how difficult it is for everyone.

  9. Christina McCall on March 21, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Third’ing what Nina and Lindsay said — blogging was a “starbucks” for me as well as a couple drive thru workers at Sonic who always take the time to ask how I’m doing on the mornings I stop by there. Happy Third Blogiversary!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:38 am

      Thanks Christina! It takes so little to make someone’s day. It makes us return to those places!.

  10. Kim Munoz on March 21, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    You just never know where you will find that one thing that will make all the difference in your life. I am glad you had Starbucks to get you through some heartbreaking times. They are your angels!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2016 at 7:30 am

      They truly are angels and I’ve been blessed by them. This is proof of how everyone – regardless of their job title can change another’s life.

  11. Jessica Hughes on March 22, 2016 at 7:20 am

    I am so touched that you decided to share this AND give someone a $100 Starbucks gift card.

  12. Runwright on March 22, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Great story, Sheryl. I’m going to enter the giveaway now because I love Starbucks too.

  13. Charlotte on March 26, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I used to have a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to my job on 31st Street in NYC that was similar to your Starbucks home. I knew everyone who worked there, and despite the fact that it was an incredibly busy location, I would go in with my mug and they’d refill my order–always knowing exactly how I took my coffee and calling me by name.

    There’s something in that, isn’t that? That comfort of having a place to turn and hide where people interact and give you counseling when you need. I’m so very sorry for your loss… but I’m glad you had a place like this to turn to. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, sweet friend.

  14. Adrian G on March 30, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    I think we need more places where people know our names and care about us. I rather like the English Pub version of socializing. It seems so much more friendly and personal than our American style bars where someone only talks to you if they are looking for a date or trying to sell you something.

  15. Beth Kondrick on September 29, 2017 at 10:29 am

    So beautiful – it is a gift to have a place like that to go in times of difficulty. Thanks for sharing this again today. <3

  16. Jessica Bradshaw on September 29, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    This is such a beautiful post. I love that you are had a giveaway to help someone else too. So sweet. I am thankful for Starbucks for you and that you had a place you could go.

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