She turned three life tragedies into opportunities

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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