Can 2016 losses be turned into 2017 gains?

New beginnings have always energized me. The challenge of a new deadline, the anticipation of a change in seasons, the turning of calendar pages to a fresh, hope-filled New Year.

But what if we’re still reeling from loss as the calendar page turns? Is it possible to take the hard and turn it into good in 2017? It is.



Photo credit: Pixabay

Here are a few thoughts Hubby and I learned about turning loss into gain:

The hard stuff doesn’t have to be wasted.

I’ve written before about how Hubby and I established a non-profit as a result of his cancer diagnosis, and set off across the country sharing what we were doing to live well with terminal disease.

Here’s the important thing to note: We had never established a non-profit; had never written for grant funding; we weren’t professional speakers. But we were driven by a passion to encourage others on this uncertain road and we had a sense that God doesn’t waste the hard things in our lives.

Disclaimer: This didn’t happen immediately. We wallowed in self-pity and frustration and hopelessness far too long. But in time, we regrouped and brainstormed and rolled up our sleeves and went to work. Stubbornly. With persistence.

Taking the focus off our losses can dilute them.

Ironically, creating purpose from this senseless cancer diagnosis made the hard road easier for us. Which seems inside-out, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we concentrate on our stuff to make the road easier for us? Um, not necessarily.

At some point, as we lift our eyes, focusing outward, seeing others, it dilutes our hard things. Magically. Miraculously.

The vision we once carried doesn’t have to die.

When Hubby died of cancer, I assumed the goals we shared together would die right along with him. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, the vision changed direction. A repurposing. I love that word repurposing because it speaks to me of something that got broken shattered crushed ruined, and instead of tossing that thing out it was adapted for a different purpose.

One of the ideas that started bubbling up was the concept of a widows’ retreat encouraging women to think about living forward. Retreat components might include a gentle hike in nature armed with journals for starting gratitude lists; a registered dietician conducting a cooking demo while participants chop and slice and break bread together (since most of us widows with empty nests stop cooking meals for ourselves); art therapy, writing workshop, and/or a knitting instructor; a panel discussion in which the experts – those who have lost a loved one – share their tips for survival. The byproduct could be connection to a community of women for support through ongoing friendships.

Possibilities can open up where there were once impossibilities.

These widow-retreat thoughts were some of the ideas bubbling around in my brain. But this [rather large] obstacle: I don’t have a sizable home in the country.

And then these two invitations:

“Would you be guest speaker at our widows’ retreat?”

“My husband and I are retiring and plan on turning our log home into a vacation rental place. Could you use it one weekend for a retreat or something?”

Yes, and yes!

And so, on the agenda for 2017, at least two break-away refreshing repurposing gatherings for widows. And if these events go well, then I’ll figure out a way to continue offering hope and encouragement in this small way.

Making a difference to only one person is still worth the effort.

In the overall scheme of so many widows with unspeakable loss and pain, my small flicker-of-candlelight idea won’t make much difference. But what if I could strike just one tiny match and chase away some of the darkness for a few people in my corner of the world?

I’m reminded of “The Star Thrower” story by Loren Eiseley about the boy who was throwing starfish back into the ocean after a storm had washed so many up on the beach. A man, after observing the boy, said, “There are thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid what you’re doing isn’t going to make much difference.”

Whereupon the boy picked up another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Turning to the man, he said, “It made a difference to that one.”

* * *

So, with the turn of the calendar to a New Year, if every minute that ticks by represents a minute of life, then how should we spend this priceless, ridiculously astounding, living, breathing life?

Do we have wisdom we can speak to others? If there were heart-breaking devastating losses in 2016, can we get beyond that and use our experiences to make 2017 better? Should we open our hearts and use our passions and abilities to make our corner of the world a little brighter?

We do. We can. We should.


P.S. If you found this post encouraging or helpful, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Terri

    I think of all your posts this is my favorite.

    So many of us are beginning a new year in which our person will never share even a day of it with us, except in spirit. And yes even just one makes it worth while.

  2. Cheryl Edwards


    I am doing those retreats at my property and would be happy to work with you on that. I have people volunteering from hospice and also massage and other people. ONce I am out of the cabin in the Spring, it will be avaiable as well as the large fully hooked up nice RV, and the studio room near the solar shed. These areas can provide lodging for retreats as well as a gathering space. Outside is the 36 ft labyrinth, walking paths, paved campfire and sitting areas, and the water feature I put in this year. It is all overlooking rock cliff outcroppings with seven mtns to the west and Smith Rock Gray Butte to the east, yet only 10 miles from Bend, 5 from Sisters, and 13 from Redmond. I have had people here that I helped since Tom passed and nothing has helped me heal more. I will be opening this up once I finally move out of the cabin this year. Just wanted to make you aware that , as you may remember, this was our goal before Tom even passed and I am making sure the hard work he did and all he put his life to is not wasted…that this dream is the reality it was going to be for both of us. God Bless!

  3. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    We would hope and pray that much optimism comes from and for your readers, as we go forward in this New Year. This is sent with our thoughts and love. The words which reached out from your message, first of all were ‘hopelessness’ and then ‘senseless’, then your ‘repurposing’. Those words were saying to me, ‘What are you going to do about it’ and then a saying I’m sure is used world wide seemed to be almost shouting out, ‘Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves’. As I read on, especially when you thought of being a speaker because you wanted to ‘share’ and ‘make a difference’ and now your thinking towards a means of a ‘retreat’, together with the response you’ve already received I guess you will be asking yourself, ‘Is this my repurposing’. You have certainly stirred some ‘get up and go’ in us readers with a ‘just do it’ attitude. Personally, having taken on the cycle challenges like the one ‘Across USA’, those years ago, I was invited to ‘share’ the inspirational and motivational experiences of situations and folks encountered, so I became a story teller/speaker without ever considering the ‘how, or why’. What was happening was not of my doing or choosing, God had a plan for me and I’m sure like you, I was then ‘giving testimony’ to what God had in mind as I/we ‘share’. I do believe, if we do nothing, think nothing, if we do not share or care then we do not ‘create’ and it is in thinking, doing and sharing that we ‘in our small way’ help others to be a part of what is ‘being created’, ‘hopefully I pray’ to the benefit of others. For me, that ‘service of sharing’ was an extension of my having given service during my life as a Police Officer, so why should I/we stop now. Thank you so much, God Bless, B & P

    • “It is in thinking, doing and sharing that we in our small way help others to be a part of what is being created.” Well said, Peter. Thank you!

  4. Mary

    A wonderful way to start the New Year Marlys. Prayers have been answered. Such good news to share. I loved reading the comments from others. You have inspired all of us once again. If you want to include a making a fleece blanket to be given to cancer victims or survivors…..include me in the weekend. I’ll bring all the supplies needed. Hands and hearts doing for others warms many hearts!
    God bless you to overflowing in 2017. Like a river glorious reaching and refreshing others……..

    • I love the fleece-blanket-making-for-cancer-patients as part of the retreat, Mary. It’s the concept of lifting our eyes above our own pain in reaching out to others that are suffering. Thank you!

  5. Brilliant post. Actually, all your posts are brilliant, Marlys. I experienced so many losses in 2016, that I lost track. We lost finances because business for our software development company slowed to a trickle. I had my wallet stolen. I had a life-threatening illness, and was in the hospital on Christmas. But God is good, and He sustains me. Thank you for the reminder that I can make a difference to “just one.” I needed to hear that today. Thank you for telling us about your opportunities for speaking to widows. When I read “widows,” I saw in my mind’s eye “windows” being opened – fresh air and hope and life for all you speak and write for. Here comes 2017. I’m excited for the huge ways God is going to use you, Marlys!!!

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