THE BLOG

The Alchemy of Tragedy

01/03/2014 02:03 pm ET | Updated Mar 05, 2014

James Costello was one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year. He was seriously injured and he now claims that while this was the worst moment of his life, he wouldn't trade it for anything because it became the best thing that ever happened to him.

Why?

Because it led to him meeting his future bride, Krista D'Agostino, a nurse at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital where he was transferred after undergoing multiple surgeries over two weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital. The two began a relationship that culminated in a wedding proposal in France during a recent 10-day trip.

I love this story because it so clearly demonstrates that while we are quick to judge something as bad or wrong, awful or terrible, the reality is this:

sometimes the best comes out of the worst.

After all, where do you think all these maxims come from?

-- There is always a silver lining.
-- Make lemonade out of lemons.
-- There's a pony in here somewhere (when the room you are in is full of manure).
-- Cross over to the sunny side of the street.
-- Have an attitude of gratitude.
-- When one door closes, another opens.
-- This is a blessing in disguise.

I wasn't born an optimist. In fact... quite the opposite. I was a moody, sullen, often seriously depressed child and young adult.

One night, at age 26, I decided that I was going to find the secret of happiness. I was at a party in Coconut Grove, Florida, at the waterfront home of a millionaire, surrounded by people seemingly having a great time. I felt like such an outsider amidst the laughing, smiling party-goers. I had never felt so alone.

I wanted to have a great time, I just didn't know how. I thought it was something that just "happened" to lucky people.

In that moment, as I stood on the dock overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay, I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to discover the secret to happiness.

During next several years I went to therapy, read a lot of books, attended workshops and discovered that most of the time happiness is a choice. Even when really bad stuff is happening!

I found out that I am an HSP -- a highly sensitive person and essentially very shy. I had to break through my fear of people and really make an effort to learn how to connect, make small talk, and allow myself to "be seen."

It wasn't easy but on a deep intuitive level I knew that in order to live, I had to be willing to do what the amazing Dr. Susan Jeffers advised "feel the fear and do it anyway."

And eventually I radically evolved into a happy, outgoing, optimist. On a soul level, I discovered that I could source my own happiness, in spite of the circumstances.

I now believe that I live in a friendly universe.

This past year I really had to dig deep to recoup my core happiness. After the loss of my sister, Debbie Ford, I wasn't sure I would ever find joy again. Yes, I had been in the grieving process before having lost grandparents, my Dad, my step-Dad, a beloved Aunt... but this was bigger, deeper and massively unacceptable.

Part of my recovery was allowing myself all the time I needed to be sad, depressed and miserable. I didn't restrict myself to mine, or anyone else's, timetable of how the grieving process should go. I gave myself permission to say no to everyone and everything that I didn't have the energy for (which was nearly everyone and everything).

Even though I had been brought up to believe that it's selfish to think of yourself first, it became clear to me that my survival depended on my ability to give myself a new and deep level of love and self-care.

And then, slowly, I began to notice, moments of joy popping up.

-- I found the ability to smile and laugh again.
-- I discovered I was having more moments of ok'ness than not.
-- And, I made major changes in the way I "do" life.

I stated working much less and resting much more and this how now become my new lifestyle. Not only am I happy again, I am physically restored, and the Universe sends me near-daily signs that I am on the right track. My creative projects are flowing, money comes from unexpected sources, ideas appear like gifts from the heavens.

The day I heard James Costello's story I had just been thinking about the paradox of how this past year had gone. While I could say this was the worst year of my life, in many unexpected ways it has also been the best year of my life. How is this possible?

Because the positive lifestyle changes that I've made, which I feel were completely guided by my sister from the other side, will impact the rest of my life and most likely wouldn't have happened without the loss of losing her.

The ancient Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi honors all things imperfect and impermanent and seeks to uncover perfection in imperfection. That is what 2013 has been for me... a process of filling in the deep wounds in my life with 24-karat gold... not to forget what has happened but as a way to find beauty in the midst of tragedy.

My sister created an amazing body of work known as The Shadow Process where she led people to find "the gold in their own darkness." This year she helped me find "gold" during my dark night of the soul.

Where have you found "gold" in a bad situation? How has a "negative" experience helped you discover a part of you that you now wouldn't give up?