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laporte-wideMy husband Phil died two weeks after our 9th anniversary, when I was 44 years old. If you had told me then that this experience would redirect my life in a positive way, I would have scoffed. After all, other than having my two children, up until then meeting and marrying Phil was the most positive thing I had experienced. At the time we met, I was a single mother living paycheck to paycheck, and most days life felt more challenging than joyful. One thing that provided a little ray of hope was the messages I heard at the church I was attending, where Phil was the minister.

One Thanksgiving Eve service, Phil invited us to take a slip of paper and write down one thing for which we were grateful. He further suggested that it be something that maybe didn’t look like a blessing in the present moment. I looked over at my kids, who were arguing about which one of them could hold the hymnal, and I wrote down, “I am thankful for the opportunity to be a single mother.”

Now, I didn’t exactly feel that way, but Phil assured us that if we gave thanks for situations that we’d like to change, we’d begin to see them differently, and we would indeed become grateful for them.

The very next Sunday, Phil asked if he could borrow my kids to see a concert at Orchestra Hall, and I joked, “Only if you take them for a month!” As it happened, we all went to the concert, our relationship grew, and Phil and I were married the following year. Eight years later, on my daughter’s 14th birthday, Phil had a surgery that revealed a mass in his stomach, and eight months after that, he made his transition.

How did this redirect my life in a positive way? As part of my grief journey, I attend a grief group and met three wonderful friends who are still, 17 years later, an important part of my life.

Prior to Phil’s passing, I had begun work on a book that describes the process of Treasure Mapping, a powerful process that uses visualization and affirmation to facilitate goal achievement. Meeting Phil was the result of my “relationship” Treasure Map, so after he died I wasn’t sure how to finish writing the book. Eventually, I realized that I needed to tell the story to demonstrate how it is possible to be grateful for the lessons and people in our lives, even when things don’t turn out the way that we hope or wish.

So, I published the book and, along with one of my grief group friends, facilitated workshops on Treasure Mapping and Feng Shui. In so doing, I believe that we have helped a few people on their own journeys.

Another outcome of sharing Phil’s illness and death experience with my children is that we became even closer, and that is a priceless gift. They have since blessed me with three adorable grandchildren, and that alone makes life a joyful experience!

Last, but certainly not least, through another of my grief group friends (and as a result of another Treasure Map), I met a kind and wonderful man to whom I am now married. Seventeen years ago, when it felt like I was going through the “dark night of my soul,” little did I know how fulfilling life could be. Truly, I am blessed!

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Barbara Laporte, M.A., is Director of Career Services in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. Her master's degree is in Human Development from St. Mary's University, with a concentration on Career / Life Transition Counseling. Her book, Goal Achievement through Treasure Mapping: A Guide to Personal and Professional Fulfillment, won the 2005 Merit Award from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. Barb has been practicing and teaching treasure mapping for more than 20 years.

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