"We were sort of surprised by the themes that kept coming up that the grief experience had, in some ways, forced them to become different people and ... that the new person was better than the old one," Calhoun said.
The rest, well, not so much.
Researchers study idea that trauma, grief can beget strengthLet's get back to the part they got right. When you talk to a veteran with PTSD after they have "healed" spiritually, what you find is a better version of who they used to be. It is not that all that goodness was not there all along. They just forgot how to find that part of themselves.
By Stacey Burling
Psychologists call post-traumatic growth (PTG) the lesser-known sibling of post-traumatic stress disorder. The more dramatic PTSD has gotten far more publicity, and a cadre of researchers has been studying the positive side of trauma and grief: that most people bounce back to baseline, and some emerge from disaster stronger and better, at least in some ways.
Psychologists are squabbling about how to measure growth and foster it and whether that is a good thing.
In research prompted by talks at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center, the Army is looking for growth in soldiers who have been to battle. The National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Survivorship has made studying post-traumatic growth a priority.
Researchers at a recent meeting in Philadelphia of the International Positive Psychology Association reported growth in grandparents of disabled children and in new mothers.
Richard Tedeschi, who with research partner Lawrence Calhoun coined the term in 1995, concedes that the idea that pain can beget strength is hardly revelatory. Still, he said, growth, benefit-finding, wisdom, transformation, whatever you call it, is a "core aspect of human experience" worthy of study.
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When a man or woman survives traumatic events in combat, usually they will be haunted by one event stronger than others. We have to remember that as we talk about trauma, it only takes one event to open the door to PTSD. Just witnessing the event is traumatic enough as researchers found studying people after September 11th. They didn't have to be in the Twin Towers. They didn't have to be one of the surviving firefighters or other first responders. Just as people in the area of tornadoes can suffer life changing challenges, there are also those who change after crimes, accidents and even the loss of someone they love. What we don't talk about is family members of the survivors being hit by the shock. They didn't have to be there when it happened to someone else. They didn't have to see it happen. All they had to do was get the phone call it happened and then visit the survivor.
For the troops, we have to remember they are just humans like the rest of us. While they are told to expect all the horrors they will encounter, no one is ever really ready for them. While one event can cause PTSD, they find themselves exposed to them over and over again while deployed, then they have to live with another deployment hanging over their heads as they try to recover from the previous deployment. Some are on their 8th deployment into one of the two operations going on. Remember, Afghanistan was started in 2001 and troops deployed into Iraq in 2003. While the death toll for US forces in Iraq has dropped there are still extremely traumatic events happening all around them with the suicide bombers blowing people apart.
These events leave people questioning everything. They question their lives and what they have valued up until that point. They question their priorities and their dreams, their relationships and everything they did wrong that they would do differently. Above all of these thoughts they question their faith. Did God abandon them? Did He want them to suffer for being bad? Is there a God at all when evil things happen? Why did God let some "good person" die? All of this can eat away at the character of a veteran. They lose the connection to what they always found fueling them.
One of the wishes veterans have is to go back to the way they were before. The truth is, no one is ever the same after trauma strikes. By no one, I mean no human is ever the same after anything happens in their lives. A new parent's life is changed in the exact moment their baby is born. It doesn't matter if it is their first child or their 6th. A change came. It comes when one of their children is diagnosed with a serious illness just as it happens again if their child passes away. An child's life is changed when a parent or sibling dies, no matter how old the person was. A new job or job loss changes lives. Accidents cause someone to be more fearful on the road afterwards. House fires change people making their fearful when they smell anything remotely similar to the smell of the fire they survived. The sense of "normal" has been taken away leaving behind the "unknown" dread hanging over their heads.
While we would all like to go back to the days when there was nothing to be afraid of and all was "right with the world" or our innocence was undamaged, life happens and we must come to terms with all it brings.
Inside our shell of a body, there is still the soul we were born with. Everything that made us "us" is still all there. If we believe we survived for a reason, then that means the person we grieve for died for a reason. In combat, a soldier lives with the thought they survived the bomb that claimed the lives of others. It happened because someone planted that bomb just as much as the vehicle blown up was where it was when the bomb blew up. No one pointed a finger and said, these people die and these people live. The person planting the bomb didn't care who was killed as long as someone died due to their actions.
God uses what man does to others to cause change for the sake of good. Joseph was sold by his brothers because they were jealous and he suffered for a long time as a slave. His character was firmly planted and he did not change no matter what happened to him, or at least that is what we're taught to believe. As each trouble came into his life it changed him but because of his faith, it made him stronger because he believed God was watching over him. People got in the way of what God planned for Joseph and made it very hard for him to get to where he was supposed to be, but he got there.
New International Version (NIV)
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
God didn't stop the evil from happening to Joseph but used it for the sake of "good" and stood by Joseph's side to give him strength to endure it. If God had wanted Joseph to just suffer, He wouldn't have surrounded him with people in position to help him.
Healing reconnects them to the source pump and what they have engrained in their soul. What comes out of the survivor after is better than they were before. They usually end up trying to help other veterans get to the place in their own lives where they are able to forgive others and forgive themselves, just as they are able to believe God has forgiven them for whatever they had to do in combat. This stops the notion they have become "evil" because they had to do something they thought was evil. They are able to communicate to another veteran the reality of war is not to kill as many people as possible, but to prevent the deaths of their own people as much as possible until the war is over. They discover they were trained to kill so that others may live. Then they discover they are still about saving lives so that another veteran finds reason to live on and help others.