Meet Peeps. He is my 88 year old father-in-law and has been widowed for the past three years. Peeps is a naturally upbeat man, bringing positivity, kindness and compassion to all that know him. As he tried to deal with the many feelings brought up by the loss of his spouse, Peeps tried conventional ways of coping. He joined grief groups and tried therapy and anti-depressants. He tried to see old friends who reached out to him, but it didn’t feel quite the same without his wife by his side. Though he improved as time passed, a gaping hole still remained as he tried to heal. One day, in an attempt to have something to do outside of the house, Peeps stumbled into a local Dunkin Donuts near his home in Delray Beach. He sat at a table near another elderly person who was drinking a cup of coffee by himself, just trying to pass the time. They struck up a conversation and decided to meet the next day. Pretty soon that group became three people, then four, and has now grown to over fifteen people who congregate daily from 10am through 1pm. They sit, talk and share donuts and cups of coffee. All are strangers who have banded together to form a community at their local Dunkin, now renamed “headquarters”. Phone numbers were soon exchanged, lunch and dinner dates were made, and friendships began to flourish. New people enter the group and are always warmly welcomed, and while some of the original members have been sadly lost to illness or death the group continues to prosper, and my father-in-law continues to heal. Caring words, acts of humanity, and the idea of finding something new to look forward helps give life purpose and connection, no matter the age. The basic need for human connection clearly remains a necessity of life, shown by what a simple cup of coffee and a donut symbolizes for a group of lonely people in transition at the end of life.
The story about Peeps is a metaphor for life in general. Whether it is a tennis group, an office gathering, a party, or simply any event that brings people together, these moments of connection help us as we transition in our lives. Life is ever changing, often for the better but sometimes for the worse. Life indeed does gives us lemons, after all. To help us navigate through whatever changes we may have to face, it is our connections as humans that keep our lives rich. Transitions in life will always hold a special place in our memories because they signify change, and it is essential that we focus on the positive, hopeful aspects that are encapsulated within every period of change. Life is inherently a perpetual state of movement, but learning to embrace it is the key to handling any transition at any age. Life never stands completely still, and if it did what a dull life would we all have! At every stage of life that you face, look for your donut, look for your cup of coffee, and think about how to make the very best of what life offers.
Written by: Nancy Tepper, Transitional Life Coach