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Buffalo author pens book about coping with grief in honor of stepfather

Alycia Ripley never truly knew what a "good man" was until her stepfather Joe came into her life.

Alycia Ripley never truly knew what a “good man” was until her stepfather Joe came into her life. A caring man to both she and her mother, Ripley said she had never met someone so genuinely interested in her who made her feel so comfortable.

“He took us out to dinner and asked me questions about school and my favorite movies. He helped me with my coat and opened doors and had a sage, quiet way of speaking that showed how intently he listened. I really needed a friend like him and was so lucky that he became a major part of my life,” said Ripley.

Ripley’s mother and stepfather were together for almost thirty years. They never married, but he raised Ripley. He taught her lessons she still lives by to this day and he made her a better person. He was everything to Ripley and when he suddenly passed away, she didn’t know how to take it.

“It was a cancer-related issue but even my stepdad didn’t know the severity of his condition until the end. I was so taken back by his passing that my brain couldn’t comprehend what was going on,” she said.

Ripley began having panic attacks. Her chest would seize up and she’d feel flooded with anxiety. The panic attacks could come over her at any time, even when driving. Ripley would have to look for the nearest parking lot and pull over because her mind and pulse would race.

“I’d put my head on the steering wheel and just talk to my stepdad and say, ‘I miss you, please help me, I’m scared, I suck at life, I don’t know what to do, please talk to me,’ and I’d repeat it over and over like a mantra.”

Not knowing what to do to without her stepfather’s guidance, Ripley decided to write letters to him. Many things came up in these letters that were bothering Ripley including his death, work, relationships, and more. Writing to her stepfather made Ripley feel like he was still right next to her and helped her cope with the loss.

“I’m not sure the letters brought peace of mind but they did bring clarity and helped me to hear his voice in my head. I knew him so well that when issues arose, I was able to hear his suggestions. I was able to “trick” myself that he was there as I was writing the letters and it helped me to remember he is still close and rooting for me,” she said.

Ripley’s friends read some of her letters and suggested she turn them into a book to help others. She thought this was both hilarious and appalling, but after giving it some thought, she changed her mind.

“The fact that I might help someone or create a connection with others was enough to make me consider the idea. I cringed when letting people read what made me uncomfortable but realized that was the entire point. It’s because I make myself vulnerable and put emotion into my work that people connect with me.”

Ripley’s book entitled “Wind Over Tide” releases May 25. It’s a memoir to her stepfather Joe, but it’s also a coping mechanism for others. Ripley hopes her book will help anyone going through a similar circumstance.

“I wanted people to know the person who raised me, everything from our ice cream meetings at Dairy Queen, to his anecdotes about marriage, to the songs he liked. The book is sad but also has hilarious moments and can also be seen as a time capsule of what it was like to grow up in Buffalo in the 1980’s. Many of our favorite Buffalo locations and restaurants and people are lovingly mentioned throughout.”

Ripley posted a sentimental post on social media in regards to the release of her new book and her best friend.

“Hats off to you, Joe. Now everyone can meet you and I never really have to say goodbye.”

If you would like a signed copy of “Wind Over Tide” you may reach out to Ripley via Facebook or you may purchase one on Amazon. 

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