Making Good Things from Grief

When my husband John died, I didn’t know how to go on living. Rather than existing, I wanted to flourish and savor life. That meant setting new goals, working for them, and reaching them. I wanted my living loved ones, and John, to be proud of me. Creating a new life took gumption, and I had it. Grief could have a better outcome if I let it. I could learn from grief and use my experience to help others.

Judy Tatelbaum, author of The Courage to Grieve, thinks grieving people need to make good from their grief. “Making our grief meaningful can be an antidote to despair and suffering as well as the stepping stone to personal growth and achievement,” she explains.

Her words strengthened my resolve. I found many ways to make good from grief—some traditional, some nontraditional, and some that were new for me.

Setting Goals for a New Life

My goals were to share the talents I’d been given, be grateful for what I had, live mindfully, adapt to life, and focus on the positives, The old caregiving-to-do list was replaced by a new to-do list. The first two items on my list: “Live the best life” and “Be happy.” I was the “executive” in charge of my happiness, and it began with writing more books and giving talks and workshops.

John often said I was low maintenance, not the kind of person who needed flashy stuff to be happy. For me, happiness is sitting in my favorite chair, which is probably forty years old, with a cup of coffee within reach and an engrossing book in my hands. Happiness means sitting on a bench in the park across the street and doing nothing. Silence doesn’t bother me.

Life was an adventure, and I wondered what was around the next corner. I wanted to live life to the fullest. Would life disappoint me or surprise me?

Reaching My Goals

During my forty-five-year career as a freelance author, I wrote forty-five books. The books didn’t write themselves. My writing career hinges on research and strong work habits. I started typing in the basement near the furnace. Then I graduated to a personal computer and workstation. Tractor printers were slow, and mine was so slow that I would start it, go to the grocery store, and the printer would still be going by the time I got home. I was excited when I graduated to a home office and bought an inkjet printer. Having a new printer and place to write made writing easier.

Star of Hope

Many people have asked me if Winning would be my last book.

“I’m not sure,” I answered, “because I never know when an idea will strike.” I’ve had several ideas for new books and haven’t decided whether I will pursue them. This decision depends on book sales and my health. If I’m being honest with myself, I hope I’ll write another book because I have more things to say, and my mind is still working.

Hope was important for both my future and my mental health. I had hope for my books, my family, and my life. My mother felt she lived at the best time. I adopted her attitude and acted on it. No matter what was going on in the world, or in my corner of the world, I celebrated life. I looked to the future with hope.

As Emily Dickinson wrote in one of her poems, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.”

Hope perched in my soul, and though I occasionally faltered, I followed the star of hope.

Excerpted from Harriet’s upcoming book, Winning. Learn more about that and her other books at

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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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