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, BS, MA has been an independent journalist for more than 35+ years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the MN Coalition for Death Education and Support. Hodgson writes for and has earned top status. A prolific author, she is the author of hundreds of articles and 31 books. All of her writing comes from experience and heer recent books focus on grief recovery: * Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss * The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul * 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope * Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life * Writing to Recover Journal (with 100 writing prompts) * Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, co-author In 2007, after her daughter's death and former son-in-law's death, she became a GRG, grandparent raising grandchildren. Her latest book, Help! I'm Raising My Grandkids: Grandparents Adapting to Life's Surprise, came from this experience. In addition to writing books, Hodgson is a columnist for "Caregiving in America" magazine and Assistant Editor of ADEC Connects, the electronic newsletter of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. A popular speaker, Hodgson has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer's, hospice, and grief conferences. She has appeared on more than 160 talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations/programs, including CNN. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors and other directories. She lives in Rochester, MN with her husband and twin grandchildren. Please visit for more information about this busy author and grandmother. Books by Harriet Hodgson The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul, available from Centering Corporation, and Amazon, 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope, available from Amazon, Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life, available from Centering Corporation, and Amazon, Writing to Recover Journal, available from Centering Corporation, and Amazon. Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, Lois Krahn, MD, Co-Author, available from Amazon,


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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.