Can trauma help you grow?

According to an article by that title in The New Yorker, written by David Kushner, the answer is definitely yes.

Kushner’s family endured a horrific event when his 11-year-old brother was kidnapped and murdered in a rural small town in Florida. Although Kushner was only four at the time, he explains that as he grew up, he struggled to understand how his parents were able to carry on — giving both him and his other brother happy and normal lives while they still harbored the aching memory of something so awful.

The article delves into the fascinating idea of post-traumatic growth, a term used to describe how life’s meaning can deepen for someone who has endured a traumatic experience. This deepening can lead to an experience of “enhanced relationships, greater self-acceptance and a heightened appreciation of life.”

The term recalls the heroic and endurable flame of the human spirit, but it also affirms the very truths we as Catholics have struggled to understand and embrace in each new generation, for more than 2,000 years. As Jesus tells us solemnly, the barbed crown of suffering — if we allow it — can lead to a more abundant life.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).

It’s interesting that from a strictly psychological and secular standpoint, Jesus’ paradoxical dictum rings true. If we choose to respond to the intense suffering in our lives with an openness to grace, then our lives can take on a deeper meaning. The article points out the type of fruit those “who have made a positive approach to separation, catastrophe, and death” experience:

“These ‘splendid people,’” as he called them, “have come through great tribulation, are open, lack defensiveness, display intensity, purpose, passion in their lives. … They show wisdom, serenity, a kind of wholeness, a curious lighthearted and optimistic participation.”

You can read the rest of the article at Aleteia.

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