I first heard of the term “post-traumatic growth” from Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B”. First of all, I loved the book and this term. She describes what can be positive growth after a trauma. I do think there can be negative growth. We can discuss that later in this post. We all know of someone who has a near death experience or some other kind of trauma that afterword upon surviving has had a greater appreciation for life. I recently described myself to a group of friends as feeling more alive since my husband passed. I notice things more. I am more aware and perceptive about the small things. I appreciate what time I have left here.
UNC Charlotte professors Tedeschi and Calhoun have identified these 5 areas of post-traumatic growth:
1. Internal resolve or strength
We are strong as widows because we have to be, right? I bet you are stronger than you ever thought you could be. We are survivors as widows.
2. Gaining appreciation
We treasure our memories with our loved ones. We are thankful for our life, our health, each day that we are given.
3. Develop new and deeper relationships
Sharing stress, crying and laughter with more friends and relatives develop into stronger bonds. Other people we barely knew have really been there for us. I feel a common bond with other widows.
4. Greater meaning in life
Small things in our life can have greater importance. We ponder the meaning of life and death out of necessity when we lose a loved one.
5. Seeing New possibilities
The future has limitless opportunities. Forgive yourself. Set new goals. Love yourself and your life.
These five areas have been identified through scientific studies. These are common to all of us who have lost a loved one. I find comfort in knowing there is a name for what I have been feeling. Yes, Yes, its “post-traumatic growth”. Silly perhaps but also a very human response.
There can also be negative growth in post-traumatic experiences. We can be more distant from other relationships. We can be afraid of being hurt again and more guarded in our relationships. We can be afraid to try new things or venture out of our old patterns. These responses are also very human responses that are normal too. We can encourage each other to seek professional counseling and support groups to work through our specific issues. Never be afraid to ask for help.
I know we can be a source of support and inspiration for each other as well. I have listened to your stories and found myself in each one. We have a common thread with our loss and our growth. Each of us is unique of course in our specific story and we can learn from each other.
Look for my upcoming free email challenge “Better Living after Loss”. It will only be available to my email subscribers. We can positively challenge each other to take positive actionable steps to “Better Living after Loss”.