lonely woman dealing with adversityNobody gets through this life unscathed.  

At some point we all go through ‘bad’ things that cause us pain and sorrow. I’ve always been fascinated with how some people can come through and live on well with their challenge or loss while others seem to succumb and almost crumble to the pain of their struggle. The key is therefore how to live well despite adversity.

That’s what I explore in my newly released book, Living Well Despite Adversity – Inspiration for Finding Renewed Meaning and Joy in Your Life. The book features interviews with people who have risen above their losses and challenges and gone on to rebuild their lives with purpose and joy.  Some known people graciously accepted to be interviewed by me, including Cheryl Strayed, Meredith Vieira and Temple Grandin.

This book is an outgrowth of both my life theme/interest and what I call a mom’s second lease on life.

When my middle daughter miraculously survived and fully recovered from her medical crisis, I looked for something positive to do with this miracle.  Having witnessed a life be fully rebuilt limb by limb, function by function, I couldn’t simply pick up where I left off and return to life as it had been.  

I felt pulled and in angst to give honor in some way to the awesomeness of life.  And so after many years of bringing in many meaningful opportunities and endeavors into my life, and after a failed attempt at a memoir, these (original) blog interviews became my monthly project.  

My goal was that they would provide hope, guidance and inspiration to all going through their own personal difficult circumstances.  A couple of years ago I decided to compile them into a book.  

This was to be ‘my something’.  

Between my life-long interest in this theme and as an outgrowth of my daughter’s miracle, this book came into being.  It gives voice to all that I am passionate about and is one of my most meaningful accomplishments.  

As I’m sure most you know, it’s not about our circumstances but rather our responses to them that makes a difference to our life.

I like to say that “The work is in the ‘hows’: how to live life well despite life’s challenges.”  Living Well Despite Adversity is full of themes such as choice, attitude, purpose and meaning, gratitude, support, resilience, faith and more.  There is much to be gleaned and taken away, both in concepts and in application.  

I’d like to share an excerpt from one of the interviews.  

Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, writes of her journey through grief back to life after the tragic loss of her mother.  And a {literal} journey it was as she hiked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail out west.

“What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?

One of the last things my mother said to me before she died was that I was a seeker. I didn’t understand at the time how right was, but now I do.

My impulse to reach and dig and get to another emotional or psychological place, to understand a new thing, served me well when I had to rage against my mother’s death at the age of 45. And later, when I had to heal my sorrow and learn how to live without her.

Was there a specific moment, thought, or epiphany that helped to bring you to a better place mentally/psychologically, or did it evolve?

I had many epiphanies that together formed an evolution. The hardest part about losing one’s primary parent in one’s teens or twenties is that you’re still trying to form your identity, to figure out who you’re going to be in the world, and smack dab in the midst of that, you’ve lost the person who’d defined you and against whom you’d defined yourself. challenging life

You’re grieving so hard, but you’re also trying to grow up.

Those things are utterly tangled together for me. I don’t know what was youthful angst and confusion and what was my grief, and I never will. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if my mother hadn’t died.

I’ve learned as much from her in her death as I did in her life. I had to stitch my own stories with the threads of her absence.

At a certain point I became willing to do that. I accepted her death as my rebirth, whether I liked it or not.

I was on a big journey when this really became clear to me — on an 1100-mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, which I wrote about in my memoir, Wild. The summer I hiked the trail was a time of many epiphanies. My experience on the PCT changed me forever. It was my evolution.

What are/were your day-to-day coping skills that keep you afloat?

I miss my mother every day, but my grief has lessened over time.

It doesn’t feel like the great weight that will sink me anymore.

When it did feel that way in the four or five years after her death, I found comfort in my friendships, in silence and solitude, in the wilderness, and in my writing.

Acceptance was probably the most important coping skill.

I found solace in simply sitting with my sorrow.

There’s a lot of strength in crying the tears that need to be cried and letting go of what cannot any longer be held.

In general, how have you managed to rebuild your life after your losses?

By moving forward. By searching out love and goodness. By keeping faith with the things that brought me the most inner peace. By mothering my children with the same big love my mother mothered me. By becoming the woman my mother raised me to be, even though she didn’t get to be here to see her.

What advice do you have for someone going through loss in the hope of coming out of the darkness intact?

There are dark days and painfully bright nights in this life. We have the capacity to survive them. We know this because so many others have, and are, and will. It’s an ancient tale. Trust it.”

I hope you enjoyed that extract from my book and I’m excited to offer a free book give-away. Please leave your comments as to how you cope and go beyond your challenging circumstances.

Share as many detail as you can. Beautiful souls come here each week for insight and inspiration, and your story may help someone else going through adversity right now.

I will draw a winner on Thursday 19th October…so stay tuned.

Thank you SO much for being here and reading my story.



Harriet Cabelly is a social worker, positive psychology coach, speaker and workshop facilitator who is also a guest coaching expert on WOR radio's, Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life show.  She journeys with her clients as they cope with and grow beyond their painful situations, supporting and guiding them towards their best life. Her website is rebuildlifenow.com and you can find her book at Amazon.


  1. I’m so inspired by your story, Harriet, and your wish to give back after your daughter’s recovery. Of course, I love Cheryl Strayed’s book so it’s wonderful to hear her advice for surviving the pain of loss. I wish you well with your new book.

    • Hi Sandra…Harriet is amazing and I hadn’t read Cheryl Strayed’s book…but now it’s on my list. 🙂

    • Hi Sandra,
      Thank you for your lovely wishes. This book has been long in the making and I feel proud that I stuck with it. As we’re learning with the newest research, it’s all about grit and perseverance! I ‘got’ Ms. Strayed just as her book was coming out.

  2. Thanks for this post, Harriet. I love Cheryl Strayed and her book, Wild. Her book was a big inspiration for me to write down my own painful journey into a memoir and publish it. It’s so true that none of us get out of this life unscathed, but as you, Sheryl, and I did, the challenges can be fertile grounds for fully blossoming.

    • Hi Debbie,
      Congratulations on your book. Yes, out of pain can come growth if we do the work. Obviously and beautifully, you did the work as well. Thank you for sharing here.

  3. Harriet,
    Thank you for your inspiring post! Whenever I have something happen to me I try to remember that the bad times make you stronger and lead you to where you are going in life, your future self. I remember reading Kahlil Gibran’s poem on Joy and Sorrow and how the two go together… here’s a quote, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” Really enjoyed reading your post and I look forward to reading your book!

  4. Debbie Hampton will be receiving a copy of the book. I put your three names into a bowl – Sandra, Debbie and Betsy- and had my husband pull out a piece of paper, which had Debbie’s name on it. So

    Debbie, please send me your mailing address so I can send you the book. My email is: harriet@rebuildlifenow.com

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