Making Lemonade: Building on Life’s Challenges

Almost everyone has heard the saying, “When life sends you lemons, make lemonade.” In 2007, I received a bushel-full of lemons: the death of my daughter, death of my father-in-law, death of my brother and only sibling, death of my former son-in-law, and becoming guardian of 15-year-old grandchildren.

Six years have passed since I suffered these multiple losses. Now I’m able to see my recovery journey more clearly. To be honest, I’ve surprised myself. Where did the courage come from? How did I make lemonade?

First, I made a conscious decision to choose happiness. At my age and stage of life, I knew happiness was a choice, not an accident. Death was not going to defeat me and life was going to be the winner. Raising my grandchildren was my new life mission, a mission my husband shared. At the time, neither my husband nor I knew raising grandkids would tug us out of grief and push us towards the future.

I made lemonade by accepting emotional pain, and it was crushing. Pain seeped into every thought, every limb, every bone, every cell. Yet deep in my soul, I knew my recovery journey started with pain. It wasn’t an easy starting place, yet was a place to “park” for a while. Meditation, prayer, and quiet helped me cope with the pain of grief, and I think they will help you.

I made quiet time part of each day. When someone we love dies, we tend to avoid silence because we don’t want to be alone with our thoughts. Truth is, we can never outrun grief and it will find us sooner or later. Silence helped me find the answers to questions, identify the action steps I needed to take, and craft a new ife. In the silence I found a wellspring of strength to draw upon again and again.

Writing was my first action step and, like grandparenting, it pushed me towards the future. When people ask me how I became happy again, my first answer is “writing.” If you’re overwhelmed by grief now, I hope you will write in a journal, write poetry, or a book about your journey. Affirmation-writing may also help you.

Speaking about loss, grief, and grief recovery was another way I made lemonade. I’ve spoken to church groups, service groups, regional and national conferences. You may be at a point in your grief journey when you’re able to share your story. Stories link us together and give us strength. My speaking experiences have led to new friendships and I treasure every one.

Making lemonade also meant I was going to enjoy the miracle of my life. I’m alive and still have time to do some of the things I want to do. The greatest joy of my life, other than marrying my husband and having two daughters, has been watching my grandchildren grow into responsible, caring, motivated adults. They are finishing their junior years in college and my husband and I plan to be at their graduations.

Your lemonade recipe may differ from mine. Instead of writing, you may join a support group, read books about grief reconciliation and recovery, participate in blogs, take a course, attend a conference, or join a national organization, such as The Compassionate Friends. Though our recipes differ, making lemonade means you’re doing your grief work and taking care of yourself.

Let’s make lemonade together!

Copyright 2013 by Harriett Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • Beautifully stated, as always, dear Harriet. Thank you for this! ♥

  • I appreciate your support so much, Marty. You’re one of life’s boosters and there are too few of them. Thank you for all the ways you encourage and support others.

  • Chelle says:

    Art, writing, creative journaling and the pursuit of higher education are the ingredients in my lemonade recipe. Shortly before losing my husband, I wrote a message to a friend (a message I will now, never forget!):

    “When stirring life’s lemonade, sometimes ya gotta add some extra sugar; and remember to be thankful when life gives you the long-handled spoon!”

  • Thank you for your “recipe” Chelle. I agree, sometimes you have to dd some sugar. My sugar was, and continued to be, raising twin grandchildren, sending them off to college, seeing them succeed, and continuing to write grief resources. Life is sweeter when we do things that make us happy.