Working on Posttraumatic Growth, Another Life Journey

For the past seven years I’ve been learning and writing about grief. In 2007, four family members, including my elder daughter, father-in-law, brother, and former son-in-law, all died. My daughter, mother of our twin grandkids, and the grandkid’s father, died in separate car crashes. I wondered if I would survive these traumatic losses.

There was no time for self-pity, however, because my husband and I became our grandchildren’s guardians. This responsibility changed my life and my writing. Instead of writing about health/wellness, I began to write about healing from grief, and in the process, learned many new terms. I just came across a new term, Posttraumatic Growth.

According to Eunie Alsaker, member of the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support Board, research on the topic began in the 1990s. She describes in in her article, “Practitioner’s Corner: Posttraumatic Growth,” published in the September 2014 issue of the organization’s newsletter. “Not all who experience trauma experience positive growth,” she explains.

Alsaker lists some signs Posttraumatic Growth: less materialism, not taking things for granted, spiritual growth, and increased self-confidence. Her observations made me wonder about my healing journey. Seven years ago I didn’t know about Posttraumatic Growth, yet I started working on it unconsciously. Today, seven years later, I am able to see signs of personal growth.

Living the moment. Last October my husband’s aorta dissected and surgeons operated on him three times to save his life. His life was saved, but he is now paralyzed, and I am his caregiver. I don’t take a moment of life for granted and am grateful that we are together.

Living the moment. Last October my husband’s aorta dissected and surgeons operated on him three times to save his life. His life was saved, but he is now paralyzed, and I am his caregiver. I don’t take a moment of life for granted and am grateful that we are together. He is glad to be alive as well and will escort our granddaughter down the aisle, in his wheelchair, when she gets married in October.

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Emotional strength. I have survived multiple losses and the trauma of having a husband in Intensive Care Unit for weeks. Life hangs in the balance on this floor, halfway between life and death, and I was very aware of this. I knew I had to be strong for my husband and myself. When I look back now, I see my determination, and the emotional strength that developed. I am truly a survivor.

More forgiving. In the past, I could be pretty tough on myself, at least, that’s what my husband says. Today, I’m more easy going and if I don’t get all of the items on my To-Do list done, I cut myself some slack. Life isn’t perfect and I’m not perfect. If I don’t dust the furniture it isn’t the end of the world.

Reliance on humor. Before the year of death, I had a ready sense of humor. After all the deaths my humor disappeared temporarily. It is back now, and stronger than ever. Laughing with my husband is one of the most joyful experiences of life. I laugh often and am grateful for it.

Whether you realize it or not, you may have been working on Posttraumatic Growth, and have points to add to my list. Healing from grief is a journey and so is Posttraumatic Growth. Though it’s a long journey, it’s a worthwhile one, and brings you joy again.

Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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