Being Grateful for Post-Traumatic Growth

©Jane A. Simington PhD.

During the month of October, many of us who live in countries of the Northern Hemisphere will gather in celebrations of gratefulness. For those who are newly bereaved, these days can add to their sense of loss and feelings of injustice. I clearly recall the first Thanksgiving celebrations after my son’s death. The closer the holiday came, the louder my inner voice chided, “What do I possibly have to be grateful for?” Now years later and only after much sorrow and having left few stones unturned in search of healing, I am aware that there are two aspects to grief: the destructive aspect, and the transformative aspect. While those who are now still in the early stages of grief, do not want to hear that their suffering will change and transform them; many who remain committed to achieving healing; and while it may take a long time, will at some point be able to acknowledge the personal and soulful transformation that resulted from their tragedy.

jane gratitude centre 1

Empirical research demonstrates that many people experience personal and spiritual growth following extreme trauma and bereavement circumstances.1  My own experiences and those of many I have helped through their grief and trauma, parallel the research findings. For most of us, the struggles to cope with the tragic events changed our priorities. What was once important became unimportant and what was once of no importance had become paramount. This shifting of importance seems especially true related to an increased appreciation of meaningful relationships.

For some of us, the shattering of specific religious beliefs was replaced with the acceptance of a broader and more flexible spirituality. For many, the need to rebuild shattered assumptions created an enhanced sense of the meaning of life and of the need to fulfill our life’s purpose. This ever-growing existential awareness led, in turn, to an enriched relationship with the Divine in self and in others; and after an initial period of being angry at God and feeling a deep sense of injustice, many developed a deeper and more personal relationship with the “God of now.” For many, this resulted only after there was a major reshaping of long-held ideas of God, of the Universe and of the Universal Order. In my particular case, the shifting and reshaping of these views deepened my sense of belonging within the greater plan of life.

After a time most who stay committed to their healing, recognize that the journey has changed them in many positive ways. Many report that they would never again want to go back to being what they were, personally and soulfully, prior to their tragedy; and while most of us wish we could have achieved the same personal and soulful growth in any other way, we are extremely grateful for all the experiences our suffering and healing has brought.

During October celebrations, many altars and table-centers will be decorated with fruits of the season. Prayers will be recited in gratitude for the abundance of the harvest. This Thanksgiving, let us also raise our voices for the greatest gifts we have received. Let there be songs and hymns of gratefulness for the post-traumatic growth and healing that we and each of our loved ones have received.

  1. Shaw A, Joseph S, Linley PA (2005).Religion, Spirituality and Posttraumatic Growth: A Systemic Review of the Literature, Journal of Mental Health, Religion and Culture, March, 8(1):1-11.

When Suicide Becomes An Option

When Suicide Becomes an Option
©Jane A. Simington PhD

Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults.Nearly 90% of all suicides are associated with a diagnosable mental health or substance abuse disorder.2 The unbearable feelings of despair, hopelessness and powerlessness resulting from their mental illness, trauma, significant grief or abandonment can, despite the best efforts of loved ones and professionals, cause nearly one million people globally, to attempt suicide each year.3 The feelings of loss experienced by professionals and loved ones are magnified when the death they grieve is by suicide. Those whose grief results from a suicidal death are at high-risk for developing a major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behaviours and prolonged and complicated grief.4

photo of someone depressed perhaps suicidal

The above information and my experience of working professionally with clients who are threatening suicide and with those who are attempting to heal from the effects of complicated grief and the associated feelings, including the stigma and shame which keeps them from seeking the help and resources they need, has led me to develop a training program to assist professionals in offering effective help to those who threaten suicide and to support the bereaved when suicide results.

This forty-hour Suicide Intervention Certification training is accredited by The Canadian Counsel of Professional Certification Global (CCPC Global.) Graduates of this training from Taking Flight International may apply to CCPC Global for designation as a Certified Suicide Intervention Specialist (CSIS.) Certified graduates of this training also receive 27 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) toward certification or re-certification as a drug and alcohol counsellor from the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF;) as well as from the International Association (ICADC).

1. Young I T., Iglewicz, A., Glorioso, D., Lanouette, N., et.al. (2012). Suicide, Bereavement and Complicated Grief. Clinical Research, LLS SAS. www.dialogues-cns.org

2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Surviving a Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide. Available at http://www.afsp.org Assessed, 2016-08-01.

3. Ibid Young, et al.

4. Hawton, K., van Heeringen, K. (2009). Suicide. Lancet, 18,373:1372-1381.

PreRequisite: Trauma Recovery Certification

Click Here to see training dates and download application form.

PTSD and Suicide Prevention Week

September 9-15, 2012 is designated as suicide prevention week. Many are asking how we can prevent the horrific statistics, such as those recently reported about the thirty-eight American soldiers who killed themselves in July, the worst month for suicides since the Army began releasing figures in 2009. Statistics about escalating suicide rates, for all age groups in the general population, are also alarming.

Since focusing on the causes, should always be the first step in any discussion about prevention, the relationship between suicide and trauma must be recognized. In light of this relationship, prevention strategies for suicide must be aimed at preventing traumas (such as is caused by childhood abuse and domestic violence), and when trauma does happen, the focus of suicide prevention must be on healing the effects of trauma on the body, mind, emotions and soul.

While many traumatized people experience most or all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is more to PTSD than is usually discussed. I have worked as a trauma specialists since 1999 and now recognize that trauma can wound the soul. Many of the more than 4000 people I have helped heal from the effects of trauma have described how excruciating their soul pain and spiritual disconnection is. Most indicate that the soul pain is the most acute aspect of their suffering.

Many who have experienced trauma intuitively know that the traumatic event had created an inner disconnection causing a deep longing to again feel whole. Indigenous cultures believe that when trauma happens, a part of the soul can remained trapped in the place where the trauma occurred and remain there frozen in time. Those who feel they have left a part of themselves at the trauma scene often voice that their lives feel incomplete and empty and that they are plagued by dreams of searching and longing. For these reasons I believe that Post Traumatic Soul Disorder is the more accurate term to describe the symptoms of unhealed and difficult to resolve trauma.

The accumulation of symptoms, including the feelings of inner emptiness, can cause relationships to fail and make the life of someone who has experienced trauma seem unbearable and not worth living. Many turn to alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb this intense suffering. Others slash themselves knowing that the instant release of endorphins will momentarily ease their suffering. When these attempts no longer work suicide can seem like the only way out of their constant misery.

Some ways to prevent suicide include:

1)    Assess how much unhealed and cumulative trauma the person is experiencing (pay special attention to the history of repetitive childhood trauma and trauma involving sexual abuse).

2)    Assess for soul pain and spiritual disconnection as well as for emotional and mental concerns.

3)    Offer interventions that are more holistic in nature as versus only cognitive based therapies and pharmaceuticals.

4)     Guide and teach grounding and other safety techniques.

5)    Teach strategies for the removal of flashbacks and how to stop night terrors.

6)    Use deep imagery with a spiritual focus to help the person heal and reclaim their power.

7)     Use therapeutic art to help the person heal and to believe in them self again.

8)    Assist the person to reintegrate all aspects of their soul/self.

9)    Teach therapeutic energy work and have the person obtain energy- transfer treatments such as Reiki and therapeutic touch as a way to cleanse their energy filed and release stored cellular memories.

10) Help the person work with the dream messages being received.

11)   Assist the person in rebuilding relationships

In conclusion, I believe in the need to heal the soul pain of the person who has experienced trauma. When I do so, I see the light return to the windows of their soul, and I see the person’s excitement about being able to once again walk among the living.