Giving Myself Away

Thanksgiving is one of America’s favorite holidays. The dinner menu varies from culture to culture, and family to family, yet the idea of giving thanks crosses all boundaries. Until I changed, November was a difficult month, a testing month, and I wasn’t sure I’d pass the test. Two family members died in November.

My elder daughter was born on Thanksgiving. While I was in labor, I smelled roasting turkey and herb-flavored stuffing and fragrant gravy. I wanted Thanksgiving dinner and couldn’t have it. How frustrating. Years passed, and Thanksgiving became a dual celebration, giving thanks and my daughter’s birthday.

Multiple Losses Forced a Change

In February of 2007 my daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. In November of 2020 my husband died of prostate cancer and heart disease. The first Thanksgiving after he died, I could hardly hold my feelings together. The second Thanksgiving without my husband was better, but still painful, and I felt it was time to change.

I needed a new purpose for life. The ability to find new meaning empowers us to find a path forward, according to David Kessler, author of Finding Meaning: The Fifth Stage of Grief. To find new meaning I decided to give myself away. What did this entail?

How I Gave Myself Away

I found a buddy. A friend of mine was a recent widow and I asked if she would be my grief buddy. She was thrilled. Our rules were simple: meet weekly, same time and place, wide-ranging discussion, and confidentiality.

I wrote about loss and healing. A week after my daughter died, I started writing a grief book. This changed the focus of my writing from health/wellness to grief and I authored 11 books.

I wrote for free. Newsletters, ghost writing, bulletins—I wrote them all. Doing this saved organizations money and made me feel good inside.

I spoke about grief. Because of COVID, I gave Zoom workshops about grief healing. After the epidemic slowed, I spoke at national and local grief conferences.

          I gave doodle art away. No store-bought birthday or get-well cards for me. A doodle artist, I made hand-painted cards for people, and continue to make them.

          I gave the gift of listening. Grieving people needed to tell their stories, so I listened actively. When I listened, I tried not to say anything.

Each day, I gave myself away. This helped me create a new, meaningful, surprising life. I continue to give myself away and think it symbolizes the spirit of Thanksgiving. Giving myself away adds richness to my life. As Kessler writes, “Meaning matters, and meaning heals.”

Harriet Hodson’s latest book, GRIEF DOODLING, is available at Grief Doodling: Bringing Back Your Smiles (9781608082520): Hodgson, Harriet: Books

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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

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