The Ripple Effect

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The Ripple Effect

by Deb Sims, MS,RNCS,LCSW


If, right now, you are mourning the death of someone you loved, I don't have to tell you how you are feeling. You know the emotions well. You probably also know how many other areas of your life have been touched.


However, others who have not experienced such a loss may not have a clue. We tend to think only in terms of the death, not of the effect it has on all aspects of our lives. If you made a list of all the things that have changed, how many things would be on that list? Actually, let's not limit this to the death of someone we love. There are additional death processes, such as divorce or loss of health. Divorce is a death of a relationship. If the person has already experienced a death of someone they love in their life, then divorce may re-open that grief. Loss of health may mean the loss of life as we knew it and the loss of many of the things we used to do.

Death has a ripple effect. There is not a single thing that isn't affected by the experience. No matter how much you read about others' experiences, you can't be prepared for the intense emotions that engulf you when you have suffered a great personal loss.

In the early stages you'll wonder why everything around you is going on as if nothing happened, while your life is frozen in a time warp of pain. So, it won't surprise you when I say that it will take two or three years to work through a death or a divorce or the acceptance of a major illness that dramatically limits your functioning.

Let's examine this ripple effect closer.

Take out a paper and write down the major loss you have had. Now think back over the past two years.

  1. Have you experienced any other losses in the last two years? What were they and how did you feel? How did you handle those losses?
  2. Have you had health problems in the last two years? Again, what were these problems? What emotions were associated with them and how did you handle it?
  3. Have there been changes in any of your relationships: marriage, job, children moving out, relocation or any other major changes in the last two years? How have you dealt with these changes?


This is an inventory of what has happened in your life prior to your major trauma.

Now let's look at what has happened as a result of the death process.

Make an inventory of the things that have changed for you since this major death process.

  1. Think about your financial state. Has that been altered?
  2. Have you had to change your living arrangements?
  3. Have you had to alter your work situation?
  4. Are there activities that you can no longer do because of this loss?
  5. Have relationships been altered in your life because of this?
  6. Add any other changes that come to mind.

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