Four Ways to Handle Life's Ripple Effects

By:  Shelida Stuart Johnson, MA, NCC, LPC

When experiencing a life changing event, we may notice a ripple effect within the lives of those around us. There are stakeholders that may feel this change. Some may feel it deeper than others, especially if the event has changed the dynamics of the relationship. Our loved ones may feel uncertain of where they fit in our lives and how to help during this time.

"I believe this resonates with me, but could you give me an example? Can you explain this from the stakeholders’ point of view?"

Maybe a close friend of yours received a life changing call, email or letter. The affected person may feel a flood of thoughts and emotions, ranging from denial to sadness and possibly grief. You start to notice significant changes in your loved one. Maybe they are not as available as they once were due to changes in routine, isolating behaviors, or they may simply need time to process the news they have received. You try to be there for them, but you feel as if they are pushing you away with each attempt.

What now? 

“I want to be there for them, but I’m also feeling alone,” or maybe even abandoned.


Continue to remain open to checking in and offering support. Support may be as simple as lending a non-judgmental ear to listen. When doing this, limit distractions and be completely present for your loved one.


  Understand that this is a life changing time for your loved one, as well as yourself. Truly try to place yourself in their shoes and understand that this simply takes time to process. The time needed to process is different for everyone, so do not put a time limit on this.


Your feelings are valid. You, too, have experienced a change. You’re attempting to navigate this change the best way you can, with the tools you have. Those feelings (feeling isolated from your loved one) are real, and it is important for you to acknowledge those feelings without guilt.

Re-evaluate your strengths and try to make sure your self-care routine speaks to your strengths. You will need a reminder of the things you do well and try building on this.

Including your strengths in your self-care routine can help combat some of those negative thoughts (of self) that may rise at this time (i.e., If you are a great artist and enjoy art, possibly set asides some time to include this in your self-care routine).

Furthermore, be intentional when caring for yourself. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN and SCHEDULE your self-care routine. Planning and scheduling your activities can increase the likelihood of you following through with this task.


(or trusted support)

If you notice that this change is becoming more and more difficult, and you’re experiencing feelings of sadness and grief, due to the possible loss of the relationship, begin sorting through these thoughts and feelings with a professional.

If for some reason professional help is not an option at this time, try to identify a trusted support person. Furthermore, some states/cities/counties have peer warm lines available for individuals seeking additional support for non-crisis situations.