Post-Traumatic Growth

“Trauma doesn’t have to defeat you. It can be a perfect opportunity for growth. Don’t just make a comeback. Use it as a catalyst forward.”  ~ Matt McWilliams

A friend repeated and repeated the words “forward motion” every time she spoke to me during the early days, weeks and months after my loss. At some point, I made the decision to embrace the mantra, “Keep moving forward, one step at a time.” I didn’t know what that meant or where I was going. As life unfolded I began to sense a healing that I couldn’t put into words. It wasn’t until years later that I came across the concept, Post Traumatic Growth.

Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) is defined by the American Psychological Association as “Experiencing positive transformation after trauma is known as posttraumatic growth. People who experience it may develop a new appreciation of life, newfound personal strength, see an improvement in their relationships, see new possibilities in life and undergo spiritual changes.”

Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses is a basic tenant of recovery. Beginning to see yourself from a strengths-based perspective is part of the process toward healing. It shifts the perspective/belief away from “sickness” to “impact” and moves the conversation away from “what is wrong with you” to “what has happened to you”.The research suggests that between 30-70% of individuals who experienced trauma also report positive change and growth coming out of the traumatic experience (Joseph and Butler, 2010). 

To evaluate whether (and to what extent) someone has achieved growth after a trauma, psychologists use a variety of self-report scales. One that was developed by Tedeschi and Calhoun is the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1996). It looks for positive responses in five areas:

  • Appreciation of life.
  • Relationships with others.
  • New possibilities in life.
  • Personal strength.
  • Spiritual change

As I consider these five areas of my life today; I have to agree with the experts. Growth has happened. Positive focus toward life, relationships, new experiences, personal strength and deeper spiritual awareness is happening. I share these experiences with my grievers and by doing so, I share hope.

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