How post-traumatic growth changes your perspective on death

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May 25, 2018, 8:44 AM | Updated: Jun 5, 2018, 9:28 am


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There’s a trending term for “turning lemons into lemonade” and it’s called Post-Traumatic Growth. You may be more familiar with the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is a mental health problem people experience after a traumatic life event. But Post-Traumatic Growth is an opportunity to grow after facing a life-altering situation. Some people are finding strength and empowerment through their trauma and experiencing some incredible results.

PTSD United reports that 70 percent of Americans experience traumatic events in their lives. By nature, most people are resilient. We experience challenges like job loss, health issues, heartbreak and more throughout the course of our lives. But for some it goes beyond a “glass half full” scenario; it’s people making real changes in their lives because of a traumatic situation.

Trauma occurs on many different levels. Someone like Tim Scrivner is an inspiration for the impact Post-Traumatic Growth can bring. Tim’s family died in a car crash, leaving his young niece orphaned with cognitive disabilities. Young and unprepared for responsibility, Tim was able to embrace his loss and turn into a person he never realized he could be. He adopted his niece, quit drinking, and went on a life mission to inspire people to lead a healthier life. Expert theories on Post-Traumatic Growth reasoned that if the traumatic event had not happened to Tim, he might never have had a reason to turn his life around.

Post-traumatic growth doesn’t mean that there is a lack of suffering. In fact, it’s suffering that inspires the change. People who experience the effects of this phenomena are characterized by a traumatizing event and the changes in their lives that result because of the experience.

The five main effects Post-Traumatic Growth can have:

1: New appreciation for life

2: Improved relationships with others

3: Excitement for new possibilities in life

4: New-found personal strength

5: A change in perspective about spirituality.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a “tough guy” to experience Post-Traumatic Growth. In fact, it’s better if you’re not. People who are already resilient in their day-to-day lives are less likely to experience noticeable changes in perspective after their trauma, according to the American Psychological Association.

“Less resilient people…may go through distress and confusion as they try to understand why this terrible thing happened to them and what it means for their worldview,” states Richard Tedeschi, Ph.D.

This experience is particularly important when it comes to the death of a loved one. According to Mental Health America, there is a wide range of emotions that people experience once a death occurs. These range from denial to shock, sadness, anger and even guilt. But what if the death of a loved one could help you know your loss is going to help others in need? What if there was a way to “grow” by making the decision to donate your body to improve medical knowledge and even save lives?

With the increasing need for medical research, options like whole-body donation benefit and advance modern medicine. The ways that body donation aids medical research are extensive. From training surgeons to developing new techniques for reducing the spread of cancer, medical research projects are made possible with post-mortem bodies.

With whole body donation through companies like Science Care, donors are also honored with a tree planted one year after donation. Trees are placed in national forests that preserve public land and provide habitats for wildlife. A new appreciation for life and renewed personal strength can be found knowing your loved one’s physical body goes on to a higher purpose.

Grief and loss can be traumatic. Donating bodies to science after death can open up an opportunity for your loved ones to overcome the trauma of their grief and loss. Visit Science Care to see why a plan for whole body donation for your loved ones can lead to an inspired and impactful new phase of your life.


Transcribed from the Post Traumatic Growth Interview with Pat McMahon and Dr.Ralph Earl. 

This is Pat McMahon for Science Care, delighted to introduce you to the founder Psychological Counseling Services here in the Valley, Dr. Ralph Earl. And what a delight it is to be able to talk to you not only the services of Science Care but about a new phrase to me. By now just about everybody has heard about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, but have never heard of the new term Post Traumatic Growth.

Dr. Earl: “I’m excited about it because PTSD is one of the areas we work and specialize in at PCS and to be able to realize that the goal is to get to actually a better place in terms of if it is marital stuff, addictions, whatever, to take something so that those who have the darkest paths may have the brightest futures. Something I believe.

Pat: In your recent research on the term Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome, what does it mean?

Dr. Earl: What it means to me is that if when somebody faces a crisis, our set up at PCS is people come and they spend a week or two or three with us and do like 60 hours of therapy a week. And they don’t come to PCS unless they are in major crisis. And when in that crisis, say talk about marriage. And maybe a marriage which is really, really hurting. So what happens frequently, what I look at as Post Traumatic Growth, is that the trauma can lead to a better marriage than they actually ever had before. And we see that happening over and over again

Pat: Well I know that at Psychological Counseling Services you and the many members of your staff have to council people in the area of grief. Since we’re here talking about the services also of Science Care, could you give an example of Post Traumatic Growth as it relates to the sudden death of a spouse or child.

Dr. Earl: So when we see somebody who has lost a spouse, or a lost child, that going through something that to me is one of the most situationally depressing things anybody can go through and then find out that there are tools that can be built to have a life very different than before, and to have a life that’s still full of meaning. So the pain that can lead towards growth. There’s a big choice in terms of what we do with pain

Pat: And without endorsing Science Care, you might be comfortable in talking to someone who comes to you for grief counseling that they might want to look into it.

Dr. Earl: Yeah, absolutely. So when people are hurting so much in terms of plans around death both and how to handle it both in in psychological point of view, I don’t make a separation, and a from spiritual point of view, to do what’s in everybody’s best interest. So it’s a matter of saying, “Hey, this is another option”.

Pat: Dr. Earl, how do you think that a family who right now thinks that it would be a marvelous idea to be able to donate the bodies of perhaps the older parents or grandparents. How would they gently, carefully and positively present that to the older members of the family?

Dr. Earl: Our kids actually give us a gift when we start getting real about what is in the future and one of the most loving things. We’ve had some conversations that we initiated and they’ve initiated in terms of what is next and it has been very helpful. Glenda and I talk to them about plans so that there’s a preparation in terms of what happens after we are gone. And I know Glenda and I decided years ago to give our organs, the idea of being able to even give more after death is a pretty intriguing thing. So I think that couched in with how we love you, keep saying that, how much we care for you, and then getting real in terms of the stage of life, I experience that as a gift personally to deal with what sometimes I even want to avoid thinking about

Pat: Don’t you think it also offers a family, on both ends of the age spectrum, an opportunity for deeper appreciation for life.

Dr. Earl: We looked at the kinds of issues of that being involved in terms of Science Care are doing, and had that conversation with our both of our kids, and what it actually did is it brought us closer together in the family.

Pat: Well, the next time your family gets together since you have now recently become aquatinted with Science Care and their services, know that with the relationship that a family develops with Science Care; No costs associated with the donation, they take care of transportation, filing the death certificate, cremation, return of the cremated remains within two to five weeks, they offer a legacy letter with a month or month and a half of the donation detailing the medical programs that your loved one may have been a part of and, this is one that really gets me, a tree is planted in honor of the donation on the one year anniversary.

Dr. Earl: I love that Pat because we have a house up in Park City Utah and we have a tree for each one of our grandkids that we planted up there. We have 5 grandkids. That legacy, that sounds like something that could be um going through the most difficult times and having hope or being able to have another twist as opposed to just “the sky is falling, henny penny the sky is falling” I think could be incredibly helpful.

Pat: Dr. Ralph Earl and Pat McMahon talking joyfully about Science Care. If you’d like to talk to them, just write down this number 800-417-3747 or contact them through Consider in our family a full body donation. My mom did it because she believed that Every Body Matters.

Science Care was founded in 2000 with the vision to become the world’s leading whole body donation program. Science Care was the first non-transplant organization to earn accreditation by the American Association of Tissue Banks. We’ve helped facilitate the training of thousands of surgeons and physicians at our medical training facilities. We’re headquartered in Arizona, with additional facilities in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Want to learn more about how you can make a difference with whole body donation? Join the Science Care donor registry today and help make a difference for tomorrow.

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How post-traumatic growth changes your perspective on death