The Five Stages of Dealing with Life after Zach Parise

For the New Jersey Devils, July 4, 2012 will forever be remembered as the day Zach Parise went home and took his ball with him. Parise and best buddy Ryan Suter winked and nodded their way to matching 13-year $98 million dollar deals with the Minnesota Wild.

A day of jubilation for hockey fans all across the State of Hockey and bitterly disappointing for fans in the Garden State, may of whom still can’t believe Parise is actually gone. His only return next season is a mid-November game, which up until today was of little significance to anybody other than the schedule makers.

After believing for months that Parise would be re-signing with New Jersey, the  shocking turn of events sent thousands of stunned Devils fans spinning out of control emotionally.

I can understand and relate to any Devil fans pain. Whenever one deals with a significant loss in their life there are steps that one must go through to get them past the pain and get them back to living a normal life.

The stages of mourning are universal and can be experienced by people from all walks of life. There are five stages of normal grief.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first introduced the world to what they were in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”

Many people do not experience all the stages in order, which is okay. The important idea is that those Devils fans that are truly having a tough time understand why players like Parise, Paul Martin, Brian Rafalski, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Gomez and Bobby Holik where taken from them much too soon. These stages help those fans better understand how to deal with the loss.

1. Denial and Isolation

Still can’t figure out why Parise would leave a franchise that has won three Stanley Cups and Five Conference Titles in the last 18 years for a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2007-08. Don’t worry it’s not about the money. Parise wanted to be closer to home because nothing says home like $98 million dollars. Or maybe this all just one big nightmare that I yet to wake up from.

2. Anger

Once you have burned your red no. 9 jersey, you will need to take a moment to reflect on all the good times you had in that jersey. Like the time you heard Parise proclaim his desire to remain in New Jersey. Oh, and that one time when he told 5,000 adoring fans huddled in the pouring rain not to worry when they asked him to re-sign. Yeah, those are great memories.

3. Bargaining

The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control– To do this one can go through a series of “what if” questions to help them cope with what has just happened.

- What if Lou had negotiated sooner?

- What if Parise had been named team captain sooner?

- What if Parise didn’t have one point and finish minus-5 against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final?

– What if the Devils were from Minnesota?

– What if J.P. Parise hadn’t spilled the beans months ago about the desire to have his son play closer to home?

4. Depression


5. Acceptance

It’s fine really, it is. The Devils have been there, done that when it comes to talented players leaving as soon as they hit the free-agent market. New Jersey has a crop of young and talented forwards just itching to make a name for themselves with the team. Besides do you really think a 70-year-old Lou Lamoriello is going to sit on his hands after inking a 40-year-old Martin Brodeur for two more years? No, the team is still in a ‘win now’ mode and Lamoriello will do what it takes to get the club past this brief but survivable setback.

Ah, I feel better already. Don’t you?

Coping with loss is a ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you easily go through all the emotions that you’re dealing with. But hopefully I made you laugh and realize Parise is a person who made a decision that he thought was best for his family. The Devils didn’t need to be hamstrung by another heavy contract anyway. It’s all for the best.

So on behalf of all Devils fans out there, we wish you the best Mr. Parise and hopefully someday the Devils can sweep the Wild in a Stanley Cup Final. That would be the ultimate poetic justice.

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