Bitter or Better: Grappling with Life on the Op-Ed Page


What will people remember about you after you’re gone?

In Bitter or Better: Grappling with Life on the Op-Ed Page, Caryn Sullivan illustrates two profound lessons her mother taught her five children through her words and actions.

First, life isn’t fair. And nobody likes a victim.

Second, navigate life changes without a backward glance.

Starting in childhood, Caryn carried both lessons in her heart as she navigated divorce, death, cancer, autism, and more.

In Bitter or Better, Caryn recounts how she stoically spent years juggling serial health crises. But when, days before Christmas 2009, her husband’s heart attack changed her “W” from “wife” to “widow,” her trusty coping mechanisms fell short.

She was depressed and depleted when a priest offered life-changing words from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl:

“In the face of adversity, we have a choice. We can be bitter…or we can be better.”

Caryn wanted her life and legacy to be defined by choosing better. She connected with others who navigated adversity by choosing better, often sharing their stories in her newspaper column. Combining her personal story with those of others who inspired her, in Bitter or Better, Caryn illustrates how choosing better can define both our lives and our legacies.