By Stephanie Spillmann 9/5/17  This post may contain affiliate links. Read more here. 


The Power of Coffee and Routine Saved My Life


coffee on a wood table


Coffee saved my life…literally.


That, and a huge dose of love from my then-fiancé.


When my 21-year-old daughter died two summers ago, my fiancé and I had to take the doorknobs off of her door to get to her. There is quite simply no way to describe what that does to a person — what it does as a bonding agent for a soon-to-be-married couple.


We were in that tragedy together from the first moment. It creates a permanent understanding that you are the only two who lived through that very experience. A primal drive ensues to do whatever it takes to protect the other from further harm.


The first days after a child’s death are a blur of not wanting to live or breathe and an overwhelming sense of responsibility to take care of the details and be ever-so-strong for your other three girls. Most of the time, not wanting to live or breathe threatens daily to take over.


Daniel (now my husband) stopped work for a bit to stay home with me, and my mom flew out. He did something extraordinary for me, in those first several days, as I awoke each morning to the repeated shattering of my world every time my brain came to full consciousness.


Trivial as it seems, every morning there was a cup of coffee placed on my bedside table so the smell and warmth of it would fill my just-waking outer senses. This external stimulation competed with the internal struggle to not care — to want to fade into nothing.



coffee on table with alarm clock



Never underestimate the power of routine, or a ritual as simple as coffee, in the midst of mind-numbing pain. There is grounding and familiarity there. It can serve as an anchor for your soul when everything else is spinning.


I’m not saying that coffee alone can save a life, or that routine makes it all better. I am saying there is healing power to it — albeit very subtle. For me, the coffee spoke of a constant in my life. Mornings would continue to come, this dark and earthy smell would continue to waft and beckon my mind to entertain the possibilities of fully living again.


I’ve loved coffee since high school, and through the years, especially since visiting Italy, I’ve become very particular about what I would call truly good coffee. Most coffee lovers are that way, I guess. Italian espresso, and European coffee in general, sadly puts American coffee to shame.


My Swiss sister-in-law said it all when she teased about barely tasting the one bean with which Americans brew coffee. I thought that was hilarious — until I tasted what she was used to. Oh man, she’s so right.


I brought some Italian espresso home with us after our honeymoon last summer. It’s almost gone now, and Daniel and I have burned through every blend at Starbucks in search of a replacement. We’ve come pretty close with the Kenya blend. Starbucks gift cards are now in the top spot for gift ideas.



picture of coffee on table with graphic


The cohesive property of sharing a hot drink is nothing new. From ancient days, and throughout the world, coffee and tea rituals have been, and continue to be, a focal point of social bonding. Peace treaties and diplomatic meetings have been anchored for centuries by passing a cup and sharing this fruit of our earth in which we find commonality.


When I met my husband four years ago, I was overjoyed that he is a coffee lover. Seems silly, but being previously married to someone who hated coffee and tea, I felt lonely and disconnected. Brewing a two-cup pot, versus a full one, is anticlimactic. There’s something really special, to me, about sharing that morning cup of coffee — either in silence or chatting over croissants in Italy.


The routine gurgling and clicking of our coffee maker at 5:30 am, and loud beep announcing its drinkable state, just makes my morning. Don’t get me started on the smell. Is there any smell on this earth that compares with coffee? I can’t think of any.


cup of coffee on table with book


As for the power of routine, coffee has remained the starting point of each morning, of course.  However, about five months after that horrible day, I found an online course that gave my mind something useful to do. I could see some possibilities taking shape over the weeks and months that I studied hard and learned a new and difficult skill.


One day, on a fluke, and feeling quite silly for entertaining such ideas, I perused work-at-home jobs and found Caitlin Pyle’s Proofread Anywhere course. It was advertised as a comprehensive theory and skills course to master the art of transcript proofreading. I was skeptical, but I needed a way to earn. This course would allow me to study on my own terms and my own timeline.


In short, I made some calls to local court reporting agencies and found that transcript proofreading is indeed a “thing,” and can be quite lucrative. I signed up. That course, and the routine of plugging away at the 3,000-plus pages of practice transcripts, also saved me from giving up on life. I had a reason to get up — I had a job and goal to work towards.


By the following June, a year after that agonizing day, I launched my own business and website as a proofreader. I did well, but it has become so much more than just a course that led to a paying job. It opened my eyes to things I never thought I could do, even before something tragic happened.


I have since springboarded into paid freelance writing in the finance and health sectors. Those proofreading skills, and the intensive grammar and English-usage concepts, daily add to the quality of my work. I’m forever grateful for routine and conquering the fear that my life would never be productive again.


This chapter is just beginning. I now have two businesses, and I’m attending a huge finance convention in Dallas next month. Who knew I had it in me? I didn’t.


Love and coffee — and routine. Never underestimate them.


You can read my related post: Grief and Money: Life Doesn’t Stop When Someone Dies

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37 Responses

  1. Jill Brandon says:

    This just makes me so proud..of you, or all that you have been through. How you have kept pressing forward, and not given up, even when it would have been understandable.

    I’m so honored to call you friend, and that we have shared our grief together.. over coffee, lunch, dessert..and the like.

    You have inspired me, and have stepped in beside me showing me the power of listening, and the power of words… to heal, and ignite new passions..thank you❤️

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Dearest Jill, I’m equally inspired by and proud to call you friend. Grief is the strongest of bonds…for there lies hope and honesty. Your words always bring me to tears and lift me high at the same time.

  2. Heather Krueger says:

    Beautifully written and deeply authentic! I love hearing of the hope you have in the present and future! I love the idea of how that small gesture of coffee each morning helped you continue on. And I’m so thankful that you are!

  3. Kathy says:

    Wow!! I can’t imagine how awful it must be to lose a child. During the first year after my boyfriend died, a friend of mine brought me an iced coffee from DD every, single, morning. Every morning. Even if I didn’t answer the door, he left it outside on the front steps. Every single morning for exactly a year. I will never forget that. Also a huge coffee fan here. <3 I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      I love that story, Kathy! People can’t imagine what they do for our hearts with one small gesture! It’s the constancy of it…and the heart behind it. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  4. Amy says:

    I am currently working on the Proofread Anywhere course, which led me here. I am amazed at your strength and endurance. I am so happy for you to have found an outlet.

    On the subject of coffee: Have you tried Newman’s Own organic, whole-bean coffee? My French step-mom says it’s he closest she’s gotten to European coffee.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Hi Amy! I’m touched by your comment and wish you all the best with the course. Keep your chin up, work hard, and you’ll do great! I will have to try some Newman’s Own…thank you for the tip. 😉

  5. Susan says:

    I am currently in my journey of going through the PA course. There are many mornings that after my husband and I drink our morning cup of java and have our devotionals that I’m off to study or work on the practice transcripts. Thank you so much for sharing. Your words of hope are an encouragement for others.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Hi Susan,
      Thank you for your kind words. I wish you many blessings on your journey through the course. There is something so comforting about routine!

  6. jen says:

    I’m grieving a different kind of loss right now. Interestingly, my morning coffee is my routine. The rest…will fall into place. I’m trying to fine the routine that will motivate me to move forward despite hardship. Loss. Perhaps despair.

    Thank you for sharing such a raw time in your life.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Thank you, Jen, for your honest words and for sharing as well. I think when we can talk aloud about our struggles and losses, this brings some healing and can help ward off despair. Please know that you’re never alone — and that NO loss is insignificant. This life is hard, and we need each other and plenty of patience with ourselves to heal and move forward. Blessings to you, dear Jen.

  7. Donna says:

    Stephanie, thank you so much for sharing! I thought I had hit a wall, nothing as tragic as your loss, but now I believe I can sip my tea 😉 and focus. P.S. Coffee is easily the best smell on the planet!

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Donna! I’m so glad that my experience can encourage. All credit goes to my husband who has the most giving and selfless heart.
      Yes, coffee is it. 😉

  8. Nat says:

    So sorry for your loss. I am glad you were able to find your way back to life and love. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Nat! I’m so touched that my story didn’t scare anyone away. It’s hard to know how intense stories will affect others. <3

  9. Kate says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this piece of your grief journey here. Bless you and your family (and your businesses)! Are you also in Holly Johnson’s freelance writing course? (I believe your name looks familiar from there.) I, too, hope to build business in both proofreading and writing.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Hi Kate,
      Thank you for your sweet words. I am in Holly Johnson’s student FB group. I took her course several months ago and have loved every minute of my writing journey so far. Good luck with both of your endeavors as well. 🙂

  10. Julie says:

    You are such an inspiration! What a strong woman. My prayers are with you.

  11. Stephanie says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    Beautifully written and truly touching.
    I wish you and your family all the best.
    Sorry for your loss.

  12. Jill says:

    What a beautiful story! I’m so sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine. I’ve been thinking about the course but I lack the time and finances right now. But it’s good to see that it is useful for others, and it is definitely on the back of my mind. I’d love more control over my time!

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Hi Jill,
      Thank you for your comment. I hope you’re able to find what works for your time and budget, eventually. There are many great courses out there. Caitlin’s are top notch, of course. She has a new “work at home” course coming out in January as well.

  13. mercy njuguna says:

    Am so sorry for what you had to go through but am more glad at how you managed to get through all that ….. you are a true inspiration to many .

  14. April says:


    The article was what I really needed to push forward. I was completely touched and moved for words. How one’s struggle becomes one’s search for life. Thanks for sharing.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, April! I’m always so thankful when a part of my life touches another’s in a meaningful way.

  15. Stephanie Spillmann says:

    I’m so touched by all of these beautiful words of encouragement and blessing. I hesitated to write a piece like this because it’s far from a feel-good topic and it’s not about business or money. This sense of community and encouragement for one another was exactly what I hoped to create here. Thank you all!
    P.S. I’m sorry it took a bit to respond to these wonderful comments…I’m in the midst of taking my baby girl to college. An empty nest will be my next adventure. Stay tuned! 😉

  16. Deanna says:

    What a beautiful story…full of sadness and heartache followed by a big warm cup of happiness and hope.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Thank you so much, Deanna, for your kind words. My biggest hope was that this wouldn’t turn into a piece that sounded like a pity party, but rather a story of overcoming and joy. I’m delighted at your description. 🙂

  17. Frinie says:

    I completely admire your strength. And just on a lighter note, I’m a coffee addict. I certainly be sharing your story.

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Frinie. They mean a lot to me … and I’m sure we’re in the majority with our coffee addiction! 😉

  18. Emily says:

    Oh my gosh, Stephanie. This post is amazing in so many ways. Much strength and love to you. (Learned about you at FinCon. Great blog).

    • Stephanie Spillmann says:

      Emily, thank you so much! These comments mean the world to me. I wish we would have met at FinCon…or did we? It was such a whirlwind, and a blast!!

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