The Oregon Book Report - Book News from Oregon

She turned three life tragedies into opportunities

October 16, 2012

By Michal Ann McArthur,
Bend writer

If anyone has figured out how to make lemonade out of life’s lemons, it’s Welby O’Brien. Three times when she faced a tough challenge, she learned how to cope and then turned right around and wrote a book about it to help others.

All of O’Brien’s books are eminently practical, enriched by her background in teaching and counseling.

First, she went through a painful divorce. From the ashes of that devastating experience, she rose up and wrote Formerly a Wife: A Survival Guide for Women Facing the Pain and Disruption of Divorce (WingSpread). This book tells her story and offers practical advice to newly divorced Christian women. She helps them face their pain and recover in a process of “feel, deal, heal.”

Next, her own beloved father passed away. “When he died,” she says, “we were totally lost. We were spinning around, grieving. I was motivated to come up with a resource all-in-one book for people with everything right there.” Good-bye for Now (WingSpread, 2004) is that book. She says, “It’s the sort of book I could have used when I was going through the loss of my father.” The book is in sections so you can go to the place you need when you need it. It includes emotional and spiritual components for those who want them as well as advice on the nitty-gritty from experts including attorneys, funeral directors, and chaplains.

Both books may be found at

Four years ago, O’Brien married a Vietnam vet with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. According to O’Brien, this condition currently affects more than a million people in the US. She explains, “It results from a severe trauma . . . that is horrible and shocking. The result is that it overwhelms the person’s ability to cope.”

Though O’Brien loves her vet “one hundred percent,” yet it’s a challenge to learn how to live with somebody with PTSD. She says, “Over the years I’ve kept track of not only my own questions and issues but also those of many other wives and loved ones of veterans, all the people I meet and listen to on the Internet, and also from the counselors who work with vets and their families.” O’Brien’s notes became her third book, Love Our Vets (Deep River Books, 2012). This is a book that “directly addresses the need of the loved ones as opposed to the need of the veterans with PTSD.” It is the sort of book she wishes she had at the beginning of her marriage, a record of “things we’re learning as we go along.”

You can find Love Our Vets at

There you go. Three huge, lemony challenges. Three cold, refreshing pitchers of lemonade. I’m inspired. Though not all of us can write books, all of us can turn the challenges we face into opportunities to help others as we learn to cope and then reach out to share with others.

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Discuss this article

Monica October 16, 2012

If a thousand more women would turn their tragedies into a chance to bless others, this state would overflow with goodness and it would be felt in every corner.

Amy Gordon October 16, 2012

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is one of those things that we all nod in agreement about how terrible it is, but then we forget about it once we leave the room. This is a serious awareness issue that we need to talk about. We need to extend a graceful hand to our vet friends and families. We need to ask the right questions and provide a right timely and truthful answer. We need to know more than we know know, and do more than we do know.

Gene October 16, 2012

Wondering how any of us could even begin to accurately empathize with PTSD sufferers. I have a feeling that most of us have a very loose idea of what’s going on, but that the reality is much harder to understand and internalize if you haven’t experienced it.

Andrea Parunak October 16, 2012

Good for Ms. O’Brien! It’s so inspiring to see how she faced these hard challenges and turned them into opportunities to help others going through the same things. We should all look for ways to do this with the lemons in our own lives!

Emily Weaver October 16, 2012

Our vets need our understanding.

April October 16, 2012

Oregon has so many great writers. I hope she is able to be successful because she has a great story.

Maxine October 17, 2012

Neat woman.

Dawn October 17, 2012

An inspiring read to remind us to not only be brave enough to face life’s challenges but to reflect upon and digest what we have been through and then be able to help others go through the same challenges. Bravo!

ggg October 17, 2012

very cool lady taking tragedy and turning it into comfort and success.

Nancy Ward October 17, 2012

Great interview with an admirable and inspiring writer.

Jan October 17, 2012

Great article! Divorce, death and PTSD can be such dark roads to navigate when you walk them alone. How great to have this resource available for those needing light in the midst of trauma!

Kay October 17, 2012

Definitely a woman of courage and faith. Difficult enough to walk through the fire, but to walk with purpose and grace is awesome. To take the experience and channel it to help others is a wonderful gift she has and gives.

Claryce October 17, 2012

Great interview – Wake up call for some of us who think we were dealt a bad hand. Wonderful resource….

John Ward October 17, 2012

Good philosophy.Nicely written. We should all learm to turn lemons into lemonade. Thanks.

Judy R October 17, 2012

Thanks, Michal Anne, for the informative article. Three great resources to know about when three of life’s greatest challenges hit.

Kathi October 18, 2012

Excellent article, and sounds like very timely books. I’ll keep them in mind. I think you may remember that we had a neighbor twenty years ago, a Vietnam vet with PTSD who tried to murder his family (although they escaped to our house). Not all of them recover, but they all need understanding and compassionate help.

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