Monthly Archives

June 2017

Post-Traumatic Growth

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”.

A Widow’s Growth and Gratitude

Trauma in our lives teaches us lessons, even ones we don’t want to learn. I do think there is good that comes out of bad. Do we call that God or the universe or our own choices? I’m not sure but we grow and change. We can choose to use that for good and growth. This is different for each of us. I’ve heard some people say that they wonder if their husband would be proud of them now. I do not live my life like that now because I never did in the past. I never had to question whether my husband was proud of me. He gave me his unwavering support during our lives together. He stayed at home with the kids so I could have a career and he loved it. When I was a nervous wreck and this was often, he could calm me down just by being near him or with a couple of words.
He taught me the meaning of self-sacrificing love. I’m also a realist. We fought like all couples and we definitely didn’t agree on most things. We didn’t concentrate on all the ways we were so not a like but found things we enjoyed together. I straight out miss my best friend. I am grateful for our lives together.
Gratitude is a grace we can give ourselves. It’s funny weird to say but there are lots of ways our lives could be worse. Here are some things I am thankful for and you can make your own list.
1. Home
I have a home I love. It’s not fancy or something special but it’s exactly how I want it. Many others do not have a home.

2. Family
Even though we are a family of three now instead of four, we laugh, we hug, we go on for each other. There are many that have never had a family or have lost their entire family.

3. Job
I have a job I love and challenges me in a positive way. Many do hard back breaking work or do not have a job at all.

4. Health
I may not be the picture of health by I am physically and emotionally strong and can work and have fun.

5. Faith
I have a strong family of faith that has held me up when I could not stand. They have continued to love me even when I don’t feel very loveable.

6. My past and my future
Tomorrow is Father’s Day. I have had many Fathers in my life and I am grateful for them all. I have grown so much and so far in a brief time in the past year and four months. I get things done and I love my life. A lot of it is attitude and gratitude and no regrets or “regurts”. Let me know who and what you are thankful for today. Lean into grace and gratitude. Most of all love yourself and love your life.