How to Reap the Benefits of Post-Traumatic Growth


“The
world
breaks
everyone
and
afterward
many
are
strong
in
the
broken
places.”
~Hemingway

We
all
know
of
post-traumatic
stress
(PTS)
but
how
many
of
us
know
of
post-traumatic
growth
(PTG),
a
very
hopeful
and
attainable
way
of
life
beyond
the
loss,
adversity,
and
trauma
we’ve
experienced?
It’s
a
term
that
was
coined
in
the
1990s
and
is
becoming
more
popular
now
as
positive
psychology
and
the
specific
area
of
resiliency-building
have
gained
momentum
in
our
society.

What
is
post-traumatic
growth?
It’s
positive
change
and
growth
that
comes
about
as
a
result
of
an
adversity
or
loss.
It
is
channeling
our
pain
into
something
positive.

It’s
more
than
simply
returning
to
the
life
we
had
before
the
negative
event;
it
involves
psychological
shifts
and
changes
in
ourselves,
our
beliefs
and
attitudes,
our
actions,
the
meaning
and
purpose
in
our
lives,
our
relationships,
to
an
even
greater
level
of
functioning.

This
is
not
to
say
we
don’t
suffer
and
feel
tremendous
pain.
In
fact,
we
first
need
to
allow
ourselves
to
go
through
the
painful
and
awful
feelings
that
we’d
prefer
to
squelch
down.
It’s
similar
to
the
grieving
process
where
we
have
to
go
through
it
to
come
through
it.


It
is
only
later
on,
as
the
intensity
of
our
negative
feelings
lessens
and
softens,
that
some
small
bits
of
sunlight
begin
to
push
through
the
looming
clouds
and
we
begin,
very
slowly,
to
move
forward
and
integrate
the
challenge
into
our
lives.
We
rebuild
a
new
normal.

Without
having
a
formal
concept
or
name
to
put
to
it
years
ago,
I
went
through
my
version
of
post-traumatic
growth
as
an
outcome
of
my
daughter,
Nava’s
miracle:
her
survival
and
complete
recovery
from
a
near-fatal
medical
crisis.

She
was
on
a
respirator
in
a
drug-induced
coma
for
four
months
and
then
in
a
rehab
hospital
for
nine
months,
relearning
and
eventually,
miraculously,
regaining
every
motor
and
body
function.

Upon
her
return
home
from
a
year-long
hospitalization
and
rehabilitation,
I
went
back
to
work
and
resumed
my
life
back
home
(as
I
had
been
living
up
at
the
rehab).
Needless
to
say,
I
was
thrilled
to
have
witnessed
this
miracle—her
survival
and
recovery—and
I,
as
her
mother,
felt
I
had
been
given
a
second
lease
on
life
as
well.

As
time
went
on,
however,
I
felt
uncomfortable
inside—empty,
bored,
and
filled
with
angst,
feeling
like
this
just
wasn’t
enough.
And
then
I’d
feel
guilty
over
feeling
this
way;
after
all,
I
had
our
miracle,
what
more
could
I
possibly
want???

Going
back
to
life
as
before
felt
so
small
to
me.
I
had
just
witnessed
life
at
its
most
fragile,
sitting
by
her
bedside
listening
to
every
beep
and
bleep
of
machines
that
breathed
for
Nava
and
kept
her
alive,
with
tubes
coming
out
of
every
opening
in
her
body,
on
a
bed
that
rotated
in
all
directions.

One
minute
she
had
been
eating
a
blueberry
muffin
waiting
for
a
procedure
and
the
next
she
was
on
a
ventilator
fighting
for
her
life.
If
this
didn’t
make
me
realize
how
our
lives
hang
by
the
thinnest
of
threads,
then
nothing
would.
And
I
began
to
feel
my
inner
stirrings
and
angst
more
and
more.
This
was
slowly
becoming
clear
to
me:


I
had
just
witnessed
something
miraculous.
I
had
to
do
something
to
honor
it.
As
people
do
things
to
honor
a
life
that
doesn’t
survive,
I
felt
a
burning
need
to
do
something
to
honor
the
awesomeness
of
a
life
that
did,
against
all
odds. 

It
was
clearly
not
enough
to
just
resume,
to
pick
up
the
pieces
where
I
had
left
off.
That
would
be
like
whitewashing
away
this
most
traumatic
year
in
my
life,
not
giving
the
miracle
of
life
the
respect
and
glory
it
warranted.
Not
to
mention
the
miraculous
complete
recovery
as
she
slowly
began
breathing
and
eating
on
her
own
after
more
than
half
a
year
with
tubes
and
then
a
tracheostomy.

And
so
began
the
struggle
of
what
to
do.
I
also
felt
a
strong
sense
of
urgency

to
do

and
not
waste
time
on
this
earth
where
we’re
given
an
unknown
and
unpredictable
amount
of
time.

In
hindsight
this
was
my
angst
to
grow
and
push
through.
It
was
all
percolating
inside,
and
my
frustration
then
became
what
to
do…

I
attempted
many
different
things
that
I
deemed
meaningful:
from
clowning
with
Patch
Adams
to
foster-raising
a
puppy
for
the
disabled,
to
writing
a
book
(which
didn’t
go
anywhere
at
that
point)
and
other
smaller
endeavors.
I
was
in
search
of
something
big,
though,
the
way
some
people
start
organizations
and
foundations
out
of
their
tragedy.
But
that
didn’t
happen.


But
what
did
happen
beyond
these
random
experiences
of
adventurous
do-gooding,
as
I
see
so
clearly
now,
is
that
it
was
all
happening
on
the
inside.
So,
while
I
was
in
frantic
and
frustrated
search
for
that
external
something,
I
was
living
{and
continue
to
do
so}
more
richly
engaged
than
ever. 

As
I
stated
above,
a
sense
of
urgency
to
doing
what
I
set
my
mind
to
now,
rather
than
putting
it
off,
became
my
M.O. 
When
I
saw
a
class
in
the
city
I
was
interested
in,
instead
of
waiting
until
the
summer
when
I
was
off
from
my
school
job,
I
schlepped
into
the
city
once-a-week
for
the
class
during
the
school
year.
A
friend
of
mine
would
say,
“Whatever
you
say
to
Harriet,
she’ll
run
with
it,
so
be
careful!”

Now
in
all
fairness
I
was
always
a
doer
and
proactive.
But
this
part
of
me
took
on
a
whole
new
level
as
I
became
much
more
intentional.
My
interests
in
various
things
soared,
and
I
began
to
feel
like
there’s
just
so
much
out
there
to
learn
and
do;
the
world
became
my
oyster.

Everything
I
was
exploring
had
meaning
to
me,
and
what
didn’t,
I
eventually
threw
by
the
wayside.

After
a
few
more
years
at
my
school
job,
I
left,
deciding
to
do
what
I
truly
wanted
to
do
in
my
professional
life:
work
with
people
going
through
grief
and
loss
(in
all
areas)
in
a
clinical
setting—my
practice—and
support
them
on
their
journey
in
coping
and
eventual
growth.

As
someone
who
was
always
interested
and
in
awe
of
people
who
lived
on
well
despite
their
hardships,
 I
developed
and
curated
my
own
project
of
finding
and
interviewing
people
to
learn
and
put
out
there
for
others
to
see,
the
qualities
and
coping
tools
that
led
them
to
grow
and
thrive
beyond
their
challenges.
This
eventually
became
my
book.


And
so
post-traumatic
growth
was
firing
inside
me.
How
can
it
work
for
you?

Drs.
Tedeschi
and
Calhoun,
of
the
University
of
North
Carolina,
who
coined
this
term
of
PTG
have
identified
five
main
areas
where
we
can
experience
post-traumatic
growth
as
an
outcome
of
our
adversities:

Relating
to
Others


Increased
closeness
to
others,
increased
compassion
and
empathy
to
those
going
through
difficulties,
greater
authenticity,
and
connection.

Connect
with
people
on
a
deeper
and
more
real
level.
Recognize
where
and
with
whom
you
feel
more
understood,
connected,
and
supported.
How
are
you
responding
to
others
in
pain?
Do
you
feel
more
sensitive
to
those
suffering?
Has
your
helping
hand
been
extending
more
to
those
in
need?
Have
your
relationships
taken
on
greater
meaning
in
your
life?
Are
you
making
more
time
for
them?

Appreciation
of
Life


Awareness
and
gratitude
for
what
we
have,
focus
on
beauty
and
goodness,
living
with
more
presence
and
intention;
the
absence
of
taking
things
for
granted.

Begin
to
take
pleasure
in
the
ordinary
things
of
life,
for
it’s
the
everyday
beauty
and
pleasures
that
call,
nourish,
and
fill
us.

What
are
you
noticing
now
that
you
rarely
noticed
before?
What
are
you
slowing
down
to
really
see?
Are
you
being
more
mindful
and
reveling
in
the
now?
Awe
is
a
positive
emotion
that
fills
us
with
wonder
and
boosts
our
well-being.

What
beauty
calls
out
to
you?
Is
it
the
mountains
that
give
us
a
perspective
of
smallness
and
humility
in
their
grandness;
or
the
expansiveness
of
the
star-filled
sky;
or
the
ocean
with
its
ups
and
downs
of
the
waves
in
their
calmness
and
subsequent
crashing;
or
the
rise
and
set
of
the
sun
that
we
can
always
count
on
for
appearing
and
then
disappearing?

New
Possibilities


Re-evaluating
what’s
important
and
what
truly
matters/priorities;
stepping
outside
one’s
comfort
zone
and
taking
risks;
openness
to
new
ways
of
living,
to
new
experience,s
and
learning/taking
on
new
endeavors.

Take
stock
of
your
life
and
think
about
your
top
values
and
priorities.
What
now
seems
unimportant
since
your
tragedy,
trauma,
or
crisis?

After
processing
your
grief
and
emotional
pain,
what
new
opportunities
are
you
interested
in
exploring?
How
are
you
looking
to
expand
yourself? 
What
have
you
realized
means
more
than
anything?
How
can
you
better
honor
those
things
in
your
personal
and/or
professional
life?
How
can
you
spend
your
time
and
energy
in
ways
that
reflect
your
values
and
what
truly
matters
to
you?

Personal
Strength


Greater
confidence
and
self-esteem,
recognizing
and
appreciating
one’s
abilities
and
competence,
self-pride,
greater
resilience,
and
coping
abilities.

Reflect
upon
your
strengths
and
allow
yourself
to
feel
good
that
you
got
through
your
difficulty
in
ways
you
thought
you
never
could.

How
did
you
cope
with
pain
and
hardship
in
healthy
ways?
What
strengths
did
you
use
to
help
get
you
through
the
trauma/adversity?
Recognizing
those
strengths,
how
can
you
continue
to
bring
them
forth
in
ways
to
enrich
your
life?
There’s
a
very
interesting

free
survey
you
can
take
here,
that
lists
and
puts
your
character
strengths
in
order.
What
are
your
top
five;
how
do
they
coincide
with
the
way
you
see
yourself?

Spiritual
Change


Transcendence
to
things
beyond
ourselves,
renewed
purpose
and
meaning,
questioning
and
searching
as
we
reconfigure
our
newly
designed
tapestry. 

Consider
the
existential
questions
of
life
on
a
more
personal
level.
Instead
of
“what’s
the
meaning
of
life,”
ask
yourself,
“What’s
my
purpose
and
meaning
here,
and
how
do
I
re-create
that
for
myself?
How
do
I
connect
to
my
meaning
on
a
day-to-day
basis?”

How
are
you
redefining
success
and
living
well?
How
do
you
want
to
spend
your
days
on
earth?
What
mark/impact
do
you
want
to
leave/have?
How
has
your
perspective
broadened
beyond
yourself?
Are
you
more
connected
to
a
purpose?

Once
the
bad
circumstance(s)
happen,
growth
can
occur
in
the
aftermath
as
we
seek
to
create
good,
find
new
ways
of
living
that
can
be
enriching
and
meaningful,
and
develop
and
grow
in
any
of
the
above
areas.

Creating
new
goals
and
finding
positive
ways
to
adjust
to
a
new
reality
is
the
hope
and
potential
for
post-traumatic
growth.

Knowing
this
possibility
for
change
and
growth
exists
and
that
we’re
not
doomed
to
live
out
the
misery
of
our
challenges
and
losses
can
give
us
something
to
strive
for.
To
some
it
comes
more
naturally,
to
others
it’s
something
to
work
toward.
Either
way
it
points
to
a
better
way
to
live
through
and
beyond
our
inevitable
life
challenges.

About

Harriet
Cabelly

Harriet
Cabelly,
LCSW
is
a
therapist,
positive
psychology
coach,
and
speaker. She
has
a
private
practice
specializing
in
grief
and
adversity.
She
is
passionate
about
helping
people
cope
and
grow
through
their
critical
life-changing
circumstances.
She
is
one
of
the
coaching
experts
on
970AM,
The
Answer-Conversations
with
Joan.
Harriet
published
her
first
book Living
Well
Despite
Adversity.

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