My Story

“I’d like to share my story with you in hopes that I can help you feel supported, know that you are not alone, and feel open to look for and accept resources for help.  Four months ago, I lost the father of our two teenage children.  I had just started this new position with CHAPCA and didn’t have the experience of hospice yet and literally three weeks later, I had to live the experience firsthand.  After two agonizing months of watching his health decline and ultimately passing away, I felt an overwhelming amount of emotions that I still carry with me today, as I am still grieving. Aside from feeling angry, sad and scared, I mostly felt overwhelmed…like the weight of the world was now on my shoulders. I am 41, a widow, and left with two children who are broken.  I kept asking myself “I can barely handle my own grief; how can I possibly get my kids through this”? The calls, texts, messages poured in for the first few months.  And then suddenly… it was quiet. It was then that I was able to truly process what had happened.  I allowed myself the alone time to grieve, sought help of a therapist, and slowly added in the things that I used to enjoy like reading and art and spending time with friends.  I have the good memories that I can cherish and make me smile and I hold on to those to get me through.

Death is an experience that changes you. Through this process, I’ve learned so much about myself, and ultimately the realization that although it seems like life will never be the same, the sadness eventually eases.  Slowly, that dark cloud lifts until one day, when you don’t even realize it, your focus has shifted and your new normal has begun. I encourage you to allow yourself to feel the emotions and process in your own way, in your own time frame.   This is your journey.  You are surrounded by people that love you and will be there for you.  You don’t have to go through this alone. If you feel like you need grief and bereavement help, hospice agencies have a team of people who can help, even if your loved one did not pass away on hospice.  I welcome you to reach out to me if you would like help locating a grief or bereavement counselor in your area.  I truly feel like I was placed in this position for a reason and I am so grateful to be able to share my story and use this platform to let you know that you are not alone and there are resources to help you with your journey to heal”.

~ Sarah Dorricott, Director of Membership, Programs and Services


About Loss and Grief 

The death of anyone in your life is always very difficult. When someone you love or know is terminally ill and you watch their pain and suffering as their health declines, it can be one of life’s most difficult and isolating experiences. How do you survive the ordeal and go on without a person who has been such a vital part of your life and world? Grieving the loss and adjusting to the related changes is slow, hard work.

Grieving is a very personal experience and while we have long known about the stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, we also know that each person grieves in their own way and in their own time. There is no ‘right way’ to grieve.  Grief is not orderly and predictable; some individuals handle it better than others, some go through the stages in order, some don’t. Grief lasts until it’s done, which is far longer than our society generally recognizes.

Types of Grief

Anticipatory Grief

When a person or family is expecting death, it is normal to begin to anticipate how one will react and cope when that person actually dies.

Sudden Loss

Sudden unexpected loss can temporarily overwhelm or even immobilize anyone.

Complicated Grief

When the duration of grief is prolonged and interferes with a person’s ability to function, grief can become “a way of life.”


 Stages of Grief

 The commonly accepted stages of grief were first written by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying".


“This cannot be happening to me”. Complete disbelief is a common reaction to a terminal diagnosis.  You refuse to accept what is happening


“Why is this happening to me?” You feel like the unlucky one, angry at fate, at God, at the Doctor or at yourself for not doing enough. “If only” questions and regrets are common.


“Make this not happen and in return I will…” You promise anything if only God will let them live.


“I am too sad to do anything.” Deep sadness is an inevitable part of loss. 


Accepting death as a part of life. Your loved one is gone and will never come back. You will go on living and make a new life for yourself.

Responding to Grief and Loss

Sometimes grief is immediately overwhelming, other times the depth of sadness and pain is not realized until several weeks or months after a loss when the permanence of the loss becomes very real. Life does not get back to normal. Grief can affect every aspect of life, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Every survivor is vulnerable. Some struggle with strong emotions. Many experience guilt, both for things they did and things they didn’t do.  Some are angry at God. Many feel disorganized and can even forget, for a moment, that a death happened. The intense, all consuming response to grief eventually will subside.

Managing Grief and Loss

  • Accept that you are grieving and be open to your feelings.
  • It’s ok to cry, and to be angry at your loss.
  • Take care of yourself: eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and get back to doing the things you enjoy. 
  • Reach out to friends, go to a movie, take a walk or just visit.
  • Plan ahead, expect that holidays, birthdays, anniversaries will be difficult.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel, including you. This is your journey and you are handling this situation the best way that you can.    
  • Redirect your focus by keeping busy or by helping others.
  • Postpone making major decisions.
  • Join a support group - an opportunity to talk with people who understand.
  • Remember that every hospice program offers grief counseling to the family for up to one year following the loss. Many hospice programs offer bereavement services to the community, whether or not your loved one died under hospice care. 

 Supporting Someone who is Suffering from Grief and Loss  

  • Our immediate response is to ask, “Are you ok?”, when someone suffers a loss. “Are you ok?” is difficult to hear for someone suffering a loss because they are not ok. The best thing that you can do is acknowledge their loss, “I am sorry for your loss, I am thinking of you, I am here for you”.
  • Don’t expect a response from someone who suffered a loss when you reach out in-person, phone call or text. Those suffering a loss are feeling overwhelmed. They need time and will reach out when they are ready.
  • Once they reach out, listen to them. Let them do the talking. When someone suffers a loss having someone listen to them, uninterrupted, is therapeutic for them, being able to express their emotions.
  • Acknowledge their feelings and remember everyone grieves differently. Responding with “I am so glad you are able to share your feeling with me”, is the right response.
  • Understand that life for them has changed and that getting back to normal will take time.
  • Reach out over the next few months, not just the first few weeks. When someone is suffering a loss, it’s the months that follow that can be the hardest.
  • Be specific when offering assistance. “What can I do for you” is not helpful. Being specific gives someone who suffered a loss permission to accept assistance.  
  • Remember holidays, birthdays and other special events. A phone call or card means a lot.
  • Don’t be afraid to share happy or funny memories with someone who has suffered a loss.
 Learning to accept loss is never easy. Eventually those who suffer a loss will come to realize that they have started to heal.
They are alive and that life does resume after the loss.  



Grief Support Resources and Publications


CHAPCA provides publications for grief support on our CHAPCA RESOURCES LIBRARY page.  There, you will find helpful booklets on the following topics:


Heart-Shaped Pickles: Gentle Grief Support for Kids and Grownups is a true story about little Jenny’s continued connection to her grandpas through her discovery of heart shapes all around her. Invites kids to color, encouraging creativity. Includes a discussion guide and “8 Things Kids Can Teach Grownups About Grief.



Seasons of Grieving: A Guide to Grief at the Holidays validates that holidays can be particularly difficult for those who have lost a loved one. This booklet provides helpful coping strategies for special occasions, with sections devoted to winter holidays, other major holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries.



Grieving for Your Pet: A Guide to Understanding Pet Loss gently yet clearly explains the often disenfranchised grief process for those who have lost a pet, helping them understand their grief, find comfort, and move forward with hope. An affordable resource for pet hospice programs and veterinarians.



Sudden Loss: A Guide to Understanding Traumatic Grief defines traumatic grief and provides practical advice for survivors on what to expect and how to cope. Tips are also provided for those who want to support a survivor of sudden loss. Questions and checklists throughout invite readers to record their own experiences, if they choose.



When You Are Grieving: A Guide to Understanding Loss helps the bereaved understand grief, find comfort, and move forward with hope. Sections include “Emotional Effects of Grief,” “Remembering Your Loved One,” “Grieving Children and Teens,” and more. Each section has practical “What You Can Do” bullet points.



When Teens Are Grieving: A Teen-to-Teen Guide to Understanding Loss this booklet shares teen author Jenny’s grief story, validating that teens have the right to grieve in their own ways. Grief counselors provide professional insights throughout. Based on the award-winning book, Weird Is Normal When Teenagers Grieve.