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Women's Health

Martha Stewart Takes on Health Care

The domestic doyenne dishes about the opening of her visionary medical center for seniors, her own health challenges, and the lessons learned while coping with the loss of her mom.
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Big Martha, RIP

She may have had her own struggles with the health care system, but Martha Kostyra, in many ways, was just about the perfect example of living well into your later years -- still active and energetic as she approached her 93rd birthday. She seemed indomitable, so her death was likely a shock to her daughter, says Pamela Sollenberger, MS, a certified grief counselor who serves on the advisory board for the American Academy of Grief Counseling.

"When someone has been very ill for a long time, we're a lot further along in our grieving when that person dies," she says. "But if it's a relatively sudden loss, we have no time to prepare.'

The loss of a parent is particularly devastating. "It doesn't matter what age you are, you end up becoming that orphan," says Sollenberger. "We look to our parents as the protector, the guide, the nurturer, the unconditional love source."

And just because Stewart isn't wearing her grief on her crisply ironed sleeve doesn't mean she isn't struggling in private. "Your grief is unique only to you. Yours is different than mine, Martha Stewart's is different than ours," Sollenberger says. "We may go through the same stages of grief, but we do it differently. The process takes a lot of time, and nobody can tell you when it's time to move on."

One way of grappling with loss is to channel energies into something that honors that person and creates a legacy for them. For Stewart, this could mean deepening her involvement with the Martha Stewart Center for Living, which mattered so much to her mother. Others, says Sollenberger, might work with underprivileged children, fund a scholarship, or contribute their efforts to some other cause that was important to the person they lost. Some people engage in what Sollenberger calls "instrumental grieving," which could be anything from chopping wood to hoeing the garden to kickboxing. "Sometimes it's easier to exercise your grief than to talk about it," she says.

Martha's Health Plan

That may also be a good outlet for Stewart, who is committed to a healthy workout routine. "I do more exercise than I ever did before, but that's because I am living a very hectic life that requires exercise. I feel I need it," she says. She'd squeezed in an early-morning workout and then another hour of yoga with a trainer the day she spoke with WebMD. "That's a lucky day. Usually I get about an hour a day. But I have to insist on it."

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