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How Tragedy Can Ignite a Passion for Healing — 7 Steps For Those Dealing With Grief My journey with business success, personal loss, grief and a Fellowship at Harvard

By Adam Ramsey, MD

Key Takeaways

  • Remember to acknowledge and embrace your emotions.
  • Practice resilience and patience.
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Life has a way of redirecting our paths, often through unexpected tragedies that leave an indelible mark on our hearts. In my case, losing my father to liver cancer shattered my world and reshaped my aspirations. Losing a loved one is undoubtedly one of life's most challenging experiences. The grief and sorrow that accompany such a loss can be overwhelming. I have managed to channel my grief into a source of motivation, ultimately achieving my dream of becoming a Board-Certified Family Physician and a Clinical Fellow in Addiction Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

As someone with an innovative and entrepreneurial background in business, I never anticipated that I would find my calling in medicine, let alone embark on an Adolescent Addiction Medicine Fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School. This article recounts the transformative journey that led me to this pivotal decision, fueled by a deep desire to honor my father's memory and make a difference in the lives of others.

From business success to personal tragedy

Coming from a successful real estate background, I was well acquainted with pursuing financial prosperity. However, the sudden and devastating loss of my father to liver cancer jolted me out of the pursuit of material wealth and forced me to confront the brevity and fragility of life.

In his final moments, I was there for him — holding his hand, giving him his last bite and witnessing his last words. That profound experience forever changed me, sparking a desire to dedicate my life to medicine and become the physician my father deserved but never had.

Related: Running a Business While Dealing With a Personal Loss

The impact of personal loss

The loss of a loved one can be a catalyst for profound personal growth and a renewed sense of purpose. Witnessing my father's suffering during his illness opened my eyes to the complex interplay between physical and mental health.

I recognized the urgent need for physicians who can address the physical manifestations of disease and the emotional and psychological toll it takes on patients and their families.

Related: 5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health

Transitioning to a medical career

Transitioning from the business world to medicine was a significant leap, but my entrepreneurial mindset and innovative background provided a unique perspective and set of skills. During my family medicine residency in New York, I realized that addiction medicine was the field where I could make the most significant impact. By combining my business acumen with medical expertise, I could develop innovative solutions to address the complex challenges of addiction.

Harvard's Adolescent Addiction Medicine Fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital offered an unparalleled opportunity to expand my knowledge, refine my skills and collaborate with leaders in the field. The program's reputation for excellence and its emphasis on evidence-based medicine aligned perfectly with my vision of providing compassionate and effective care to adolescents, young adults and their families struggling with addiction. The fellowship would equip me with the necessary tools to understand the intricacies of substance use, from prevention and treatment to research and policy development.

Aligning passion with purpose

As an entrepreneur, I understand that financial success can be attained in various fields. However, my personal experiences have taught me that true fulfillment comes from making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. By pursuing addiction medicine, I am channeling my innovative spirit and entrepreneurial mindset toward healing and advocacy. I am committed to bridging the gap between medicine and business, using my unique background to develop sustainable solutions and strategies that improve addiction treatment outcomes.

Related: 5 Steps to Building a Career That Aligns With Your Passions

The tragic loss of my father propelled me on a transformative journey from the world of business to addiction medicine. I am filled with a deep sense of purpose and a burning desire to make a lasting impact. With my innovative and entrepreneurial background, I am dedicated to revolutionizing addiction treatment, advocating for policy changes and providing compassionate care to those most need it.

Here are seven actionable steps to help others in their own walk with loss.

  1. Acknowledge and embrace your emotions: Grief is a complex and natural response to loss. Allow yourself to experience and express your emotions. Give yourself permission to grieve and seek support from family and friends. Embracing your emotions will help you process your loss more effectively.

  2. Find purpose and meaning: While navigating loss, it's crucial to find purpose and meaning in your life. Reflect on your passions, values, and long-term goals. By aligning your actions with your core values, you can cultivate a sense of purpose that drives you forward.

  3. Practice self-care: Loss takes a toll on both physical and mental well-being. Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and engaging in hobbies. Taking care of your own needs will enable you to cope better with grief and maintain your overall well-being.

  4. Seek support and build a network: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or support groups who have experienced similar losses. Sharing your thoughts, fears, and struggles with others who understand can provide comfort and guidance during difficult times.

  5. Channel grief into positive action: Transforming your grief into something constructive can be a powerful healing mechanism. Consider getting involved in charitable work, volunteering or supporting causes related to your loved one's illness. By making a positive impact, you honor their memory and create a legacy of resilience.

  6. Set achievable goals: Setting small, achievable goals helps build momentum and regain a sense of control in your life. Break down your long-term goals into manageable steps, celebrate each milestone, and stay committed to the process.

  7. Practice resilience and patience: Healing from loss takes time, and it's essential to be patient with yourself throughout the process. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that it's okay to have moments of sadness and grief, even as you work towards healing and growth. Resilience is about bouncing back from adversity, and by practicing patience, you allow yourself the space needed for resilience to take root.


Loss is an inevitable part of life, and navigating the grief journey can be challenging and transformative. It's essential to acknowledge and embrace your emotions, find purpose and meaning, and practice self-care during times of loss. Building a supportive network, channeling grief into positive action, and setting achievable goals can aid healing.

Remember that healing from loss is a unique and personal journey. Be gentle with yourself, allow yourself to grieve, and take the necessary steps to find healing and growth in the face of loss. By embracing your emotions and seeking support, you can emerge from grief stronger, wiser, and more compassionate towards yourself and others. Loss can catalyze personal growth and transformation, leading you to discover a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment in your life and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Adam Ramsey, MD

CEO of NYC Daily Post

Dr. Ramsey is CEO of NYC Daily Post and Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School.

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