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How Trauma Can Help You Grow

The Following Article, written by Kristine Crane, published in U.S. News and World Report, tells the story of a strong woman who experiences post-traumatic growth and gives some insight on the process as a whole. How Trauma Can Help You Grow.

How Trauma Can Help You Grow

Look inward, and you’ll find the strength to carry on.


Survivors of traumatic events can learn to cope with their pain through a phenomenon called “post-traumatic growth.”

When Kristen Spexarth’s 22-year-old son, Colby, committed suicide 14 years ago, her own life completely unraveled. “I was so undone that it was hard for me to relate to people,” she says. “Nobody knew how to help me.” Spexarth’s own survivalist instincts kicked in, and she began meditating – something she started doing 20 years before. “My practice became a lifeline because there was nothing else tethering me to the world.” Meditating didn’t take her pain away, she continues. Rather, it allowed Spexarth to be one with her pain. “There was no way out [of the pain],” she says. “I had to go in.”

As a result of meeting her pain head on, she began to turn a corner and reconstruct her life on terms that were much richer than she had ever known before. “As foreign as a place as I was [as a suicide survivor], there was also enormous beauty,” says Spexarth, who lives in Seattle and took frequent walks in nature to heal as well. “My senses were heightened. Walking out the door, every little thing was alive. I had never had that kind of sensitivity to my environment.” Spexarth’s experience – what she calls a “profound awakening” – is not unusual among survivors of traumatic events. The phenomenon is called “post-traumatic growth” and it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from post-traumatic stress syndrome, which almost always precedes it, says Melinda Moore, a psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. In other words, you can’t have growth without trauma.

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