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.