I was blissfully naïve when I first got married. A blushing bride at 22, I was wrapped up in tulle and gift registries, bouquets and ballroom dancing, dreaming of wedding anniversaries to come. I was going to be Mrs. W and now life could begin.If only I had known the pain that was about to ensue. Immediately, we hit obstacles in our marriage. We bounced checks, fought at family functions and disagreed about how to observe religion in our home. I felt lonely in my so-called “perfect” life. Three short years later, we called it quits.Divorce had never crossed my mind as a child. My parents have been married 49 years, my grandparents were married for 68. And yet there I was, at the ripe age of 26, and my marriage was over. The day after my separation, my best friend got married, my father stopped talking to me and I fell into the deep depression of feeling like a used-up failure.I devoured the self-help section for words that would soothe my pain. Unfortunately, every “divorce” book focused on custody battles and dating again after 50. Totally useless for me. Desperate, I scoured the Internet for something relevant. I found iVillage’s message board, “Divorced and Under 30” and was home. Reading other women’s stories, I felt understood and validated, and I began to heal. With time, I became the leader of the board and found a deep passion (and talent) for supporting and encouraging women on their path. Years later, I made women’s empowerment my profession.Ultimately, my heartbreak led to me becoming a happiness coach; you too can turn your pain into purpose. In fact, top purpose researchers Todd Kashdan and Patrick McKnight find that reacting to a transformative event is one of the major ways that people find their purpose. As was documented in the foundational book about life purpose, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by the late Viktor Frankl, suffering often inspires the search for meaning and purpose in life. For example, since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991, actor Michael J. Fox created a foundation which has funded more than $450 million to find a cure for the disease. Similarly, consider Ryan Lewis (of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis), who launched the 30/30 Project to provide access to affordable healthcare worldwide after publicly announcing in April that his mother is HIV-positive.Pain is a necessary part of life. You will lose loved ones, you may suffer accidents or you might face illness. The question is what you do with that pain. Will you allow the despair to terminally ruin your life or will you accept the pain and then ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?”Using your pain as fuel for purpose is energizing. It gives you control, allows you to have power over the outcome of your circumstances and empowers you to realize your dreams. You are probably familiar with the debilitating illness posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers have recently started studying its opposite: “posttraumatic growth” or PTG. PTG is a phenomenon that happens when your struggle with a new reality after tragedy leads to positive change and greater life satisfaction. Scientists find that factors of PTG include greater appreciation for life, a changed sense of priorities, deeper, more connected relationships, enhanced personal strength, spiritual development and recognition of new possibilities in life. (This was certainly the case with my divorce: I suddenly understood that G-d gave me writing, speaking and coaching talent to help other women like me.)Interestingly, scientists find that PTSD and PTG can occur simultaneously. You don’t have to immediately bounce back from a tragedy in order to realize something better as a result of it. It is not the tragedy itself that guides you onto your new path, but your reaction to it—and that is likely to include sorrow as well as inspiration.Certainly, pain requires an appropriate amount of attention and tenderness before reacting with purpose. You must first feel the pain to move through it. Feeling sad is healthy; allowing sadness to spin into debilitating depression is not. Feeling fear is normal; allowing fear to spiral into paralyzing panic is detrimental.A good friend of mine recently lost her job. A single mother, she initially was panicked and frozen in fear. But then she saw the bright side. She had become tired of the corporate rules and lateral growth and harbored a secret desire to start her own business. Plus, she was motivated to show her former employers what they had let go. Her pain quickly became fuel for purpose: She built a website offering her services as a freelancer. Just this week, she signed her first client.Click through for four tips to help you turn your pain into your purpose.Feel the pain and let it move through. Fighting sadness with a fake happy face, or berating yourself that you’re not “supposed” to feel afraid only makes the pain worse. You need to accept it and be kind to you. Say to yourself, “I feel sad and that’s OK.” Just saying that out loud will dissolve some of the pain. You will likely repeat this step many times and that’s OK.Understand the root of your pain. Try to get to know your pain. What is the hidden fear underneath? Is there shame? Is there greater desire? For instance, the root of my divorce anxiety was about my deep shame of not being able to live up to the impossible standard of perfection I thought I should be.Ask yourself what you’ve learned. What would you tell a 15 year old about your situation? How would you advise them to deal with the roots of pain? What life lessons do you want to pass on? The biggest lesson of my divorce was that we’re each unique and it’s OK to live true to yourself, beyond what others want you to be, do and have.Now, put your knowledge to work. How can you activate these lessons? For instance, my friend learned that she really wanted to launch her own business. Similarly I was moved after my divorce to share my lessons with others like me. At first, I did this on the iVillage board. Then I became an advisor to teenage girls. Next, I got my Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology and became a happiness coach. And just this week, I published my story in the book “Pebbles in the Pond (Wave 3),alongside other transformational authors who also share how they turned pain into purpose. You too can activate your life lessons to blaze a new trail, create a life you desire and/or impact others.So how will you turn your pain into purpose?QUIZ: Test Your Life Satisfaction