More than a month ago my husband’s aorta split like a garden hose. He had two emergency surgeries and, while they slowed internal bleeding, they didn’t stop it. My husband had a third operation, 13 hours in the operating room, and surgeons installed a Dacron descending aorta in his chest. Since then, he has had three additional wound-cleaning procedures.

Unfortunately, my husband suffered a spinal stroke during the 13-hour operation. Sometimes I’m optimistic about his recovery and other times I’m pessimistic. I felt intense anticipatory grief and less hopeful than I had been in a long time. Where was hope? Could I find it again? Are hope and optimism the same? You may have asked yourself the same questions.

Scott Barry Kaufman talks about the differences between optimism and hope in his Psychology Today website article, “The Will and Ways of Hope. He thinks someone who has hope also has the will and determination to achieve their goals. “Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there,” he explains.

Hope is proactive and Kaufman describes it as a dynamic cognitive motivational system.

To understand the differences between hope and optimism, I looked up the words in the dictionary. Though they are similar, hope and optimism are quite different. Optimism is defined as a tendency to look on the favorable side of things. In my life experience, optimism is often a “wait and see” emotion. Hope is defined as feeling what you desire is possible.

In other words, hope is packed with possibilities. When you have hope, you set goals, work towards them, and assess your progress. Kaufman goes on to say that hope leads to learning your goals. I thought about these points for hours and wondered how I could apply them to my life. For two weeks I worked on identifying goals and the proactive steps I could take. You may take similar steps.

First, I considered the options. After my husband is discharged from the hospital, he will need follow-up physical therapy. With help from a social worker, I identified a senior living facility that would meet his needs. I contacted the facility and submitted our financial information as directed. Think about the options that are open to you.

Second, I thought about sequencing. Getting my husband admitted to the facility was a beginning of four new lives together. Clearly, we would have to move into this facility. I talked with the marketing director and she said my husband would have to meet with the admissions committee. “I’ll let you know when he can do this,” I promised. Can you come up with a workable sequence?

Third, I gathered more information about our health insurance and the estimated costs of my husband’s care. This information will help us plan our future. I gathered additional information about our finances, finances, including the market value of our home. Gathering information now may save you time later.

Fourth, I decided not to put our home up for sale in the winter and list it in the spring instead. My husband and I made this decision jointly. To reduce our stress, we decided to move into our senior living apartment in stages. I made a list of the things we would bring and things we would sell. You may be a list maker like me, and if you are, now may be a good time to make one.

These were difficult decisions, yet they boosted my spirits, and I began to hope again. “Thankfully, I’m good at moving,” I told a friend. Understanding the differences between optimism and hope can help you move forward with life. You may find, as I did, that identifying goals and working towards them can jump-start hope. Hope can keep you going.

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer writer for 36+ years and is the author of 33 published books, including eight grief recovery resources. Her latest releases are “Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss” and “Help! I’m Raising My Grandkids,” available from Amazon.




Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four 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 healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, 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 The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her 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 grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit

More Articles Written by Harriet