In 2006, I was a typical busy mom. I could juggle housework, taxi service, cheering my kids at sports activities, date nights with my husband, volunteer work for my church and a little interior decorating as a hobby. That summer, everything changed. I came down with a chronic illness that steadily robbed me of my ability to do any of those things. I became housebound. I was lost and questioned whether my life had meaning anymore.

We've all heard of the Yiddish proverb, "Man plans, God laughs." Indeed, life rarely goes along with the plans we make. The unexpected comes up. Soon we are faced with major changes for which we might not be prepared. It may be a job loss, a marriage falling apart, or, like in my case, a health issue. Each of these can be devastating.

When life throws you a major curve ball, you have two choices: Give up and wallow forever in your misery, or reinvent yourself. Here are some tips for creating a new and meaningful life.

Give yourself time to grieve

Major life changes often come with deep losses. You may experience the loss of your old life, health, relationships, your job, career opportunities, the activities you enjoyed or more. It is natural and expected that you would have feelings of grief. Allow yourself time to grieve these losses. Do not judge yourself for not being stronger or more optimistic.

Embrace your newfound freedom

Once the pain fades, you will be able to see the freedom that comes with your new circumstances. You might find that you have more time on your hands or fewer expectations and demands to be met. See your life as a blank canvas. You have the ability to fill it with whatever you choose.

Take inventory of your passions

Perhaps you had been working at your last job out of necessity because you needed something to pay the bills and put food on the table. You don't have to jump into another soul-crushing job just yet. Instead, list all the things that you love to do. Can you expand something from your list into more than a hobby? There may be activities that you enjoy but can no longer do. Is there a way that you can modify that activity into something manageable?

When I became ill, I could no longer work as an interior designer. However, I have always enjoyed writing. I had dreamed of someday writing a book. I began spending my time working on a novel, and I finished it. Admittedly, it wasn't very good, but it was a start. I expanded upon that hobby and have continued to write creative fiction, completing several short stories and flash fiction stories. I have also become a freelance writer.

Educate yourself

Once you have a clear idea of your passions, choose one to pursue and learn more about it. Discover what kind of opportunities are available to you. Become knowledgeable about the subject in which you are interested. Take classes at a community college, find an internship, or explore options online.

Build a support system

You will be more successful at your new endeavors if you have a support system. Look for like-minded individuals who can cheer you on when you get discouraged. You can find mentors in your community, forums and support groups online. Don't be afraid to ask family and friends for help when you need it. They could offer babysitting while you go to classes or transportation to a job interview.

Be careful not to share your dreams with naturally pessimistic people who may scoff at you. Don't allow their fears to infect your pursuit of what you really want and deserve.

Follow your dreams

Take action and go for it. Take the first steps necessary to make your dreams a reality. Build your portfolio, contact someone in the field you are trying to enter, start your own business, or apply for the job you want.

Major life changes may not be expected or wanted. However, they can come with surprising blessings, too. Take the opportunity to reinvent yourself, and you can create a happy, fulfilled life.

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