From Grief to Growth

In working with clients through the Survivors of Violent Loss (SVL) who have lost a loved one, sometimes in unthinkable ways, I have seen many clients go from feelings and symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to resilience and strength they had not anticipated.

The idea of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) has been around since the mid-nineties and was coined by Tedeschi and Calhoun (Psychology Today, 2014), psychologists, who working with bereaved parents for over a decade, experienced and observed, as I have, that often people who have experienced the pain of deep grief and loss, may move through their individual grieving journey and later become emotionally strengthened, renewed, and involved in their community in profound ways.

I have worked with many clients who have found a way to “take back their power” by using their personal tragedy to fuel good in the lives of those around them. This certainly does not happen overnight nor would anyone wish to experience the loss of a child, or the murder or suicide of a loved one, or an accidental, unexpected loss from drunk driving or natural disasters. The idea of “Growth” initially can be a far-fetched idea and understandably so. With time and support however, many people find their strength and move into this idea of Post-Traumatic Growth.

These survivors may work in their community to put a stop to what caused the loss of their loved one. Their level of compassion and care for others going through similar loss or crises may rise up to meet those in distress, with deep connection. Helping others and taking back personal power by becoming involved in changing laws, creating support groups, or writing books have been incredible examples of post-traumatic growth by these heart-broken individuals.

I have seen not just these outward expressions of growth but also many internal examples of this resilience and renewing of meaning in the survivor’s life such as; more warmth in personal relationships, larger sense of personal strength, more intense appreciation of life, and new understanding of their desired life journey and spiritual development.

It is always a gift to see clients and survivors find such resilience and create new meaning in their lives. It can give so much hope to those suffering after the death of a loved one; particularly losses involving trauma, violence, or sudden and unexpected loss that may be associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The concept of Post Traumatic Growth has such a beautiful sound of hope within it and can give anyone experiencing any type of trauma or loss the desire, knowledge, and ability to learn to live with what has happened with renewed strength and focus in their lives. This type of pain does not have to be a life sentence of agony but can be used to move from surviving to thriving in addition to helping others do the same.

Written By,

Michelle Iliff, M.A.
Registered Marriage & Family Therapist Intern (IMF 62628)
Supervised by Laura Carr, (MFC 38400)

Psychology Today (2014, February).
Retrieved from