“Making lemonade out of lemons” was an adage I had heard all of my life, but until I was faced with what looked like the worst nightmare of my life, it really had no meaning for me. Now, I can say that this phrase and the attitude it exudes helped me get through one of the darkest hours of my life. The perspective invoked by this saying has helped many resolve their grief in the most positive of ways, including myself.
On the same day in September, 1987, I delivered a stillborn baby and due to complications had a partial hysterectomy. I had no other children. I was lost and felt like my future had been erased. I had no idea what to do next. But, for some reason that old adage that I had to make lemonade out of lemons came to me. I didn’t want these tragedies to defeat me, keep me down. I wanted to find a way to make these tragedies into something positive. And, fortunately an opportunity arose that allowed me to do just that.
A nurse in the labor and delivery department, that had been by our sides during some of the most crucial hours, asked me to be a part of a bereavement program for other parents. That program included talking with parents on the phone and a support group. I was able to be of some help to other parents and by being of some help to others, my husband’s and my travail was not in vain. Our baby’s short life became so meaningful. And, most of our “whys” were answered.
I no longer felt like a victim. I was a survivor. I might have stayed stuck in my grief if I hadn’t had the opportunity to make something good out of a profoundly sad situation. “Making lemonade out of lemons” was the very best grief medicine for me as it has been for others.
Many, many people have chosen to “make lemonade out of lemons”. And, because they did, the world is a far better and safer place. MADD was founded because Candy Lightner’s daughter was killed. Many, many lives have been saved because of her efforts. Polly Klaas’s father Marc has made a huge impact on child abuse laws. Nancy Brinker has raised money and awareness for breast cancer victims in memory of her sister through the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
The list is long. Most are just average citizens who woke up to a particular cause and the need for change. They took their grief and the memory of their loved one and decided to help others as a tribute to their loved one and as a way to deal constructively with their grief.
I cannot tell you when is the right time or what is the right way to “make lemonade out of your lemons”, but I want to plant the seed because you, your loved ones and the world will be better off if you find a way to use the learning and compassion from your loss to help someone else. What a wonderful living tribute and memorial to your loved one.