They call it post-traumatic growth. I say that with a cringe. Because I didn’t accept this descriptor without denying it and pushing it away because I worried it sounded braggy.
Over the last two years, many have pointed out that I was more than a survivor at this point in my journey.
Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is a theory that explains transformation following trauma
This theory, developed in the mid-1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, posits that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward.
This evolution from survivor to thriver does not mean I have forgotten my son who died by suicide. It does not mean I no longer suffer. There are still moments, periods, and days when I cry, and miss my boy so much it aches.
But I have also found joy again, too. And I never thought I would.
There has been a lot of hard work involved to find that joy. There are nearly 2,000 blog posts on this site and 600 published book pages which have been part of my healing journey. The experience for me has been a new appreciation for life, a fresh sense of personal strength, adjusting expectations of life, and a new focus on helping others.
I’ve learned to live with the loss but more importantly, learned from my mistakes, recognized I had far more successes, and forgiven myself for something over which I had little to no control. I have learned to widen my lens and focus on the loving home in which my child lived.
Somehow I figured out a way to turn the tragedy that happened into a purpose because that’s what I needed to find emotional healing.
While it’s rare, I have been accused of exploiting my story for financial gain. It’s called making a living and what I do for free is still a lot more than people in other industries give away. I have to laugh at the one message I got about signing books and raking in cash because I can tell you that the way to riches is rarely through book writing unless you are Stephen King.
What I’ve learned over the years has come from dogged determination, a lot of financial and time investment as well as an emotional cost. All that education, learning, and investing is worth something and I am not ashamed of that. As a mental health speaker, I have examined the issue from multiple viewpoints and broken down the learning into practical solutions and stories from which others can benefit.
What I learned is that this post-traumatic growth journey began before my son’s death
Here’s what I wrote in my first book, Diary of a Broken Mind.
“In the last five years [before my son’s death], our lives had been punctuated by exclamation points of events that served as battering rams on my mental wellness, leaving me wrung out, hollow, and always on the edge of humiliation and guilt. When would I tip over the edge, throw up my hands, give up, and leave for a cave in Peru where my feelings could no longer be dragged over a bed of broken glass?”
“With each calamity, the initial feeling of shock was always the same but with each experience, recovery happened more quickly. Embracing humility and building resilience weren’t my goals but these character traits were the result. I learned to pick myself up from the mud, wash off the humiliation, apply a bandage to the hurt, and move forward.”Anne Moss Rogers, from the book, Diary of a Broken Mind
The evolution of my grief journey has been slow and gradual
Eventually, it became intentional. I’ve added to my toolbox of coping skills and become more open to new adventures and stepping outside my comfort zone. At the same time, I’ve started to recognize my limitations as well, setting boundaries so there’s time for self-care because this is emotionally-demanding work. I also come to understand that joy, like any emotion, is fleeting and to grab it and hold it and enjoy it while I can.
Bitterness? That got nixed a long time ago. I had those moments, too but they didn’t enrich my life.
My journey has had lots of dents and detours and there are likely to be more. What I appreciate is having so many of you on the ride since I couldn’t have arrived at this point without your loyal support. From me to you, a big hug.