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Positive Aspects of Critical Life Problems: Recollections of Grief

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Abstract

Fifty-two adults were interviewed about their bereavement, with specific focus on the ways in which the experience led to positive psychological changes in their lives. Most respondents described themselves as stronger or more competent in several ways, for example, being more mature, more independent, and better able to face other crises. A large number also reported that bereavement had led to positive experiences with their social support systems. These results are discussed in terms of their generalizability to other life crises and populations, and the degree to which they represent accurate insight and psychological health.

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... The experience of a group of widows (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1989-1990 illustrates the way in which bereavement, along with the distress it typically produces, can, for some people, lead to the opening of new doors in life. Many found themselves faced with tasks that their husbands had taken in their traditional marriages. ...
... The experience of a group of widows (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1989-1990 illustrates the way in which bereavement, along with the distress it typically produces, can, for some people, lead to the opening of new doors in life. Many found themselves faced with tasks that their husbands had taken in their traditional marriages. ...
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This mixed-methods study aimed to gain knowledge of the lived experience of posttraumatic growth (PTG) in 32 low-income Black mothers whose New Orleans' homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and half of whom had relocated indefinitely to Houston. Data from in-depth interviews with participants were examined in conjunction with quantitative scores on the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996). Participants were interviewed face-to-face on a range of postdisaster experiences, including positive changes, in 2009. Participants also completed the PTGI via a telephone survey within six months of being interviewed. Most (26 out of 32) participants described experiencing PTG within the 5 domains of the PTGI, with the domains most frequently coded, in descending order, being New Possibilities, Relating to Others, Personal Strength, Appreciation for Life, and Spiritual Change. PTG stemmed heavily from exposure to opportunities in survivors' postdisaster communities, including increased racial diversity, improved neighborhoods, and new educational and economic opportunities. Participants' frequency of all PTG codes was associated with their overall PTGI scores with a small-to-moderate effect size (r = .32; p = .078) in a relationship that trended toward significance. Without minimizing the catastrophic losses they entail, disasters may in some cases create spaces for PTG for survivors, including through new opportunities in areas where survivors formerly experienced oppression. Policymakers should examine how to make such opportunities available, visible and accessible to individuals absent a disaster.
... Positive psychology tries to focus on the positive outcomes of traumatic experiences (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1998). In other words, the very experience of loss can sometimes lead to increased strength and more self confidence in some individuals (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1990;Carnelley et al., 2006).This phenomenon named as post-traumatic growth by Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004), is defined as a positive modification or a transition of an individual, which follows challenging life events. In this respect, it can be postulated that finding meaning from the death of a loved one might be a healthy way of recovering on the part of the bereaved individual and may help them grow psychologically and emotionally (Fisher & Specht, 1999). ...
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This study looked at the loss of a parent in adulthood and whether this was followed by post-traumatic growth? Participants, 100 bereaved adults, from Pakistan and England, lost parents in the last 10 years. They completed three questionnaires. The study hypotheses were, first, that participants whose bereavement occurred more than five years ago would show significantly higher levels of post-traumatic growth. Second, participants with higher levels of post-traumatic growth would experience significantly higher grief scores. Thirdly, participants with higher levels of post-traumatic growth would show significantly higher levels of coping skills. Two hypotheses were rejected, only one received partial support. Yet, levels of post-traumatic growth were high in this sample. Post-traumatic growth does not follow every bereavement. The authors provide autoethnographic material to challenge this. Circumstances surrounding bereavement during the Covid-19 pandemic, are more likely to lead to increases in complicated grief reactions, rather than post-traumatic growth.
... It could be experienced as a traumatic event, triggering many negative emotions , such as anger, hostility, depression, anxiety, sleep problems (Harrington et al. 2010) and also post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Mehnert and Koch 2008). Along with negative reactions, authors have found that breast cancer survivors could also report positive psychological changes, represented by the concepts of post-traumatic growth (Calhoun and Tedeschi 1989) or benefit finding (Helgeson et al. 2006). These positive changes may protect patients' psychological, relational and physical well-being (Affleck and Tennen 1996; Cordova et al. 2001; Mols et al. 2009; Bellizzi et al. 2010; Horgan et al. 2011; Morris and Shakespeare-Finch 2011). ...
... Constructive conflict behavior could become more important after the transition to parenthood as a means to avoid relationship problems and strengthen emotional bonds. Constructive conflict behavior might also indicate psychological resilience and effective coping strategies, attributes that are known to be particularly beneficial in stressful phases of life such as the transition to parenthood (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1989;Park, Cohen, & Murch, 1996). Destructive conflict behavior, in contrast, may be particularly harmful to parents, as it intensifies feelings of stress and strain (see Houts et al., 2008). ...
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The transition to parenthood is often accompanied by declines in relationship satisfaction. Using longitudinal data from six waves of the German family panel pairfam ( N = 1,739), the authors tested whether these declines are driven by increases in and more intense forms of conflict (differential exposure hypothesis) and by a greater sensitivity to relationship conflicts after the transition to parenthood (differential vulnerability hypothesis). The analyses showed strong support for the differential exposure hypothesis among women and partial support among men. Across the transition to motherhood, women experience increases in conflict that account for decreases in relationship satisfaction. The findings showed no support for the differential vulnerability hypothesis, as neither men’s nor women’s relationship satisfaction becomes more sensitive to relationship conflicts across the transition to parenthood.
... This phenomenon is called post-traumatic growth (PTG). According to the concept of Calhoun and Tedeschi [16], PTG defines a positive psychological change that follows very stressful and demanding life situations [17]. This means that people have the ability to grow despite experiencing trauma. ...
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It is common knowledge that COVID-19 affects physiopathological changes in all systems of the human body. On the other hand, events related to the COVID-19 pandemic also have a significant impact on the social and mental sphere of human functioning. The aim of this study is to determine the relationship between selected sociodemographic variables and selected subjective cognitive resources, and the positive and negative perception of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in a group of nurses working in Poland. The computer-assisted web interviewing method was conducted between 1 and 15 May 2020. Participants were requested to complete the following questionnaires: The Changes in Outlook Questionnaire (CIOQ), The Impact Event Scale-Revised (IES-R), The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS), The Safety Experience Questionnaire (SEQ), and The Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ). Three-hundred and twenty fivenurses working all over Poland participated in the study. Their mean age was 39.18 ± 11.16 years. A higher average level was noted among the surveyed nurses in the Positive Change subscale (18.56 ± 4.04). In a multivariate model, taking into account both sociodemographic and cognitive variables, the level of perceived traumatic stress, the level of social support, a sense of security, reflection on safety and a sense of meaning and meaning in life were independent predictors of a positive perception of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those variables explained as much as 37% of the dependent variable, and the nature of the relationship was positive. While we are still a long way from understanding the full range of the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and psychosocial well-being, it is possible that in this challenging context there are many individual resources available to perceive the effects of the current pandemic positively. Therefore, they should be strengthened through the development and implementation of intervention programs to improve the mental state of nurses.
... Another important mechanism that assists survivors in sharing information and providing emotional support is posttraumatic growth. Coined by Calhoun and Tedeschi (1990), this concept refers to positive cognitive changes, such as the reframing of life goals, appreciation of life, and increased spirituality, as a result of struggling with a traumatic event. Many breast cancer survivors have reported posttraumatic growth such as a better sense of connectedness with others, deepened spirituality, and reappraising life's meaning in the aftermath of breast cancer treatment (Bellizzi & Blank, 2006;Cordova, Cunningham, Carlson, & Andrykowski, 2001;Manne et al., 2004;Weiss, 2004). ...
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This study investigated the role of breast cancer survivors in a computer-mediated social support (CMSS) group for women with breast cancer. Applying a computer-aided content analytic method, the present study examined the differences in support provision between survivors and newly diagnosed patients. This study further investigated the impacts of survivor-provided social support on psychosocial adjustment of newly diagnosed patients. The results revealed that, compared with newly diagnosed patients, breast cancer survivors provided more emotional and informational support. Receiving emotional support from survivors contributed to an improvement in the quality of life and the depression of patients. The effects of survivor-provided informational support were not significant.
... Such outcomes and changes are often referred to as post-traumatic or stress-related growth. 28 Some patients report that their cancer experiences helped them change their perspective, develop stronger interpersonal bonds, improve their attitude to life and themselves, and learn to appreciate nature more. 29 Several factors appear to facilitate stress-related growth, the most influential of which are social support and the use of adaptive (vs maladaptive) coping styles. ...
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Introduction: Gratitude has been studied as a disposition that reflects the extent to which people appreciate what they have in life knowing that it has not been given to them forever. Being grateful has been found to promote quality of life, which is why it may be used to cope in difficult times including during breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Methods: Dispositional gratitude was examined in relation to the well-being of women with breast cancer. In the current study, 119 women with breast cancer completed questionnaires that measured gratitude, well-being, coping styles, depression, and anxiety. Results: Correlational analyses found that dispositional gratitude was positively correlated with well-being (p < 0.001) and was negatively correlated with depression (p < 0.05) and anxiety (p < 0.05). Gratitude was also positively correlated with the use of task-oriented (p < 0.05) and socially oriented coping (p < 0.01) techniques. Analyses of mediation using PROCESS found that the use of task-oriented and socially oriented coping mediated relationships between gratitude and well-being, between gratitude and anxiety, and between gratitude and depression. Conclusion: In terms of application, the present results suggest that among women who have breast cancer, increasing dispositional gratitude may increase adaptive coping, which in turn will increase their well-being.
... As the incident was extraordinarily stressful, it was considered to be a potentially traumatic event (PTE) for individuals both directly and indirectly exposed to the damage it caused (Galea et al., 2005;Katz et al., 2002;Nemeroff et al., 2006;Neria et al., 2008;Norris et al., 2006). It is important to note that PTEs can elicit not only harmful psychological reactions but also potentially beneficial reactions (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1989Dekel et al., 2012;Hall et al., 2010;Lechner et al., 2009;Neria et al., 2008;Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996). Posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are one of the most frequently reported insalubrious psychological reactions following a PTE (Lechner et al., 2009;. ...
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The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan was an extraordinarily stressful incident that caused harmful psychological reactions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among affected individuals. However, a proportion of exposed individuals experienced posttraumatic growth (PTG), characterized by a noticeable degree of personal strength, spirituality, life appreciation, perception of new possibilities in life, and enhanced relationships with others. Some researchers have argued that these positive reactions may be an illusory change related to coping with traumatic events. We examined trajectory patterns related to PTG Inventory (PTGI) subscales to elucidate the existence of both real and illusory growth regarding quality of life (QoL), utilizing group‐based trajectory models. Three online questionnaires were distributed at 6 months (N = 2,554; M age = 47.04 years, SD = 12.62), 12 months (N = 887; M age = 48.11 years, SD = 12.43), and 42 months (N = 560; M age = 48.86 years, SD = 12.25) postdisaster. Participants responded to items related to demographic characteristics, disaster experiences, posttraumatic stress symptoms, PTG, and QoL. Three main PTG trajectories emerged, characterized by growth, no growth, and illusory growth, with QoL as a time invariant covariate. Compared with the growth trajectory, the odds ratios (ORs) for no growth ranged from 2.27 to 5.04; for illusory growth, the ORs ranged from 2.09 to 4.67. To our knowledge, this was the first study to report growth trajectories related to PTGI subscales and their underlying differences in psychological mechanisms and processes following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
... 11 A previous study revealed that perceived distress and positive affect were associated with post-traumatic growth (PTG). 12 PTG is a concept that was proposed by Tedeschi et al, 13 which refers to positive psychological changes after an individual experiences traumatic events. That is, people have the ability to grow as a result of trauma. ...
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Objective To explore the level and influencing factors of frontline nurses’ post-traumatic growth (PTG) during COVID-19 epidemic. Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted in February 2020 in three hospitals in China. The Post-traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) was used to investigate the PTG of frontline nurses. Data on related factors, including demographic characteristics and subjective variables, were collected. The Event-Related Rumination Inventory was used to assess rumination. Pearson’s or Spearman’s correlation was calculated for bivariate analysis. Independent sample t-tests or one-way analysis of variance and multiple linear regression analysis were used to examine the related factors. Results A total of 179 frontline nurses were recruited, and 167 were included in the analyses. The mean PTG score was 70.53±17.26. The bivariate analyses showed that deliberate rumination was modestly positively correlated with PTG (r=0.557, p<0.01), while intrusive rumination had a modest negative correlation with PTG (r=−0.413, p<0.01). Multiple linear regression demonstrated that working years, self-confidence in frontline work, awareness of risk, psychological intervention or training during the epidemic and deliberate rumination were the main influencing factors of PTG among frontline nurses and accounted for 42.5% of the variance (F=31.626, p<0.001). Conclusions The PTG of frontline nurses was at a medium to high level and was influenced by working years, self-confidence in frontline work, awareness of risk, psychological intervention or training and deliberate rumination. It is necessary to strengthen psychological guidance and training for frontline nurses and promote their deliberate rumination on epidemic events to improve their PTG.
... The process of adaptation to stressful life events can be different from person to person, leading to distress and psychopathology but also to positive changes, such as benefit finding and stress-related growth (Affleck & Tennen, 1996; Payne, Joseph, & Tudway, 2007), that are associated with psychological well-being (Durkin & Joseph, 2009). Based on a ''cognitive processing model,'' Calhoun and Tedeschi (1989) described the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth (PTG) for indicating possible positive changes in many life domains (more connected spiritually, greater intimacy and compassion for others, new possibilities in life, feeling personally stronger, deeper appreciation of life) that result from personal cognitive and emotional efforts in dealing with traumatic events. Research has focused mainly on severe life crisis to examine the relation between PTG and psychological distress (Barrington & Shakespeare-Finch, 2013; Linley & Joseph, 2004; Helgeson, Reynolds, & Tomich, 2006; Shakespeare-Finch & Armstrong, 2010). ...
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Posttraumatic growth (PTG) has rarely been explored in terms of a comparison between stressful events and chronic stress. The definition of allostatic overload (AO) refers to the chronic, cumulative effect of stressful situations in daily life experienced by the individual as taxing or exceeding his or her coping skills. Sixty breast cancer survivors and 60 healthy stressed women were divided into four groups according to various psychosocial variables: survivors with and without allostatic overload and healthy stressed women with and without allostatic overload. Women with breast cancer had higher scores on PTG scales reflecting new possibilities, personal strengths, and spiritual changes than healthy women with AO. Chronic stress may hamper growth following adversities. Evaluation of chronic stress may help in targeting interventions for promoting posttraumatic growth.
... Clinically, the findings are consistent with the view that CMs who reframe their experiences of combat in a positive light report fewer symptoms of PTS and depression. More broadly, positive appraisals of stressful experiences have also been related to general psychological well-being (Lawton, Moss, Kleban, Glicksman, & Rovine, 1991), greater perceived ability to cope with adversity (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1990), and greater wisdom later in life (Jennings et al., 2006). Fontana and Rosenheck (1998) suggested that surviving and coping with traumatic events strengthens one's self-esteem and beliefs in one's own abilities. ...
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A life-threatening traumatic experience can cause physical and psychological distress, but it can also be remembered with pride from having demonstrated one’s courage and abilities under severe circumstances. Characteristics of the event, as well as later personal reflection, together determine the individual’s response to a traumatic event. This study investigates how traumatic combat experiences and retrospective appraisals of those experiences affect reports of posttraumatic stress and depression symptoms in 324 United States Army medics. Higher levels of combat experiences were associated with both appraisals of threat to life (r = .40) and appraisals of personal benefit of the deployment (r = .15). Threat appraisals were associated with increases in symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression (r = .33 and .29), while benefit appraisals were associated with decreases in those symptoms (r = -.28 and -.30 respectively). These opposing mediation pathways led to weaker or non-significant total effects, which concealed the true effects of combat intensity on posttraumatic stress (R2 = .28) and depression (R2 = .24). Perceiving that combat experiences had beneficial effects on one’s life is associated with less intense mental health symptomology and can offset the detrimental effects of traumatic combat experiences.
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Jayawickreme and Blackie offered recommendations on how the conceptual framework of post-traumatic growth can benefit from greater attention to measurement and methodology. We offer two additional considerations. Emerging research suggests that brief and specific psychological interventions produce lasting changes in how people view themselves and their environment. In the early post-trauma phase, these interventions are worthy of exploration. Additionally, a focus on who is experiencing what type of trauma offers a contextual lens missing from the hunt for universal, silver-bullet approaches to mental health promotion. Copyright (C) 2014 European Association of Personality Psychology
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The possibility of posttraumatic growth in the aftermath of pregnancy loss has received limited attention to date. This study investigated posttraumatic growth in mothers following stillbirth compared to early miscarriage. It was hypothesised that mothers following stillbirth will demonstrate more posttraumatic growth, challenge to assumptive beliefs, and disclosure than mothers following early miscarriage. The study also sought to understand how theoretically-derived variables of the Model of Growth in Grief (challenge to assumptive beliefs and disclosure) explained unique variance in posttraumatic growth when key factors were controlled for. One-hundred and twenty women who had experienced a stillbirth (N = 57) or early miscarriage (N = 63) within the last two to six years completed validated questionnaires in an online survey relating to posttraumatic growth and key variables relevant to emotional adjustment post-bereavement. Participants who had experienced a stillbirth demonstrated significantly higher levels of posttraumatic growth, posttraumatic stress symptoms, perinatal grief, disclosure, challenge to assumptive beliefs and rumination than participants who had experienced an early miscarriage (Cohen’s d ranged .38-.94). In a hierarchical stepwise regression analysis, challenge to assumptive beliefs alone predicted 17.5% of the variance in posttraumatic growth. Intrusive and deliberate rumination predicted an additional 5.5% of variance, with urge to talk, reluctance to talk, and actual self-disclosure predicting a further 15.3%. A final model including these variables explained 47.9% of the variance in posttraumatic growth. Interventions targeting challenge to assumptive beliefs, disclosure, and rumination are likely to be clinically useful to promote psychological adjustment in mothers who have experienced stillbirth and early miscarriage.
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A life-threatening traumatic experience can cause physical and psychological distress, but it can also be remembered with pride from having demonstrated one's courage and abilities under severe circumstances. Characteristics of the event, early response, as well as later personal reflection, together determine the individual's response to a traumatic event. We investigated how traumatic combat experiences and retrospective appraisals of those experiences affected reports of symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression in 324 U.S. Army medics. Higher levels of combat experiences were associated with both appraisals of threat to life (r = .40) and appraisals of personal benefit of the deployment (r = .15). Threat appraisals were associated with increases (r = .33 and .29), whereas benefit appraisals were associated with decreases (r = -.28 and -.30, respectfully), in symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression. These opposing mediation pathways led to weak or nonsignificant total effects, which concealed the effects of combat intensity on posttraumatic stress (R(2) = .28) and depression (R(2) = .24). Acknowledging the beneficial effects that a combat experience had on one's life was associated with less intense behavioral health symptoms and offset the detrimental effects of traumatic combat experiences.
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This chapter reviews the literature that shows that growth occurs in the aftermath of a variety of life crises, and summarizes ways of understanding how this growth occurs. The chapter coined the term posttraumatic growth to describe the experience of positive changes that occur as the result of the struggle with major life crises. The kinds of positive changes people experience in their struggle with major stressors are reflected in the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: improved relationships, new possibilities for one's life, a greater appreciation for life, a greater sense of personal strength, and spiritual development. The chapter explores how the therapeutic relationship can be a vehicle for recognizing growth at a time of vulnerability. With a basic understanding of the variables involved in the process of posttraumatic growth, the chapter considers how a clinician can affect this process in useful ways.
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The cases of 16 individuals (12 women and 4 men) who reported powerful transformational experi-ences following bereavement were examined, using a mixed methods approach, including a qualitative thematic analysis of interviews and two psychometric scales. Both approaches found significant evi-dence of positive personal change. Prevalent themes included a sense of permanent transformation, a less materialistic attitude, a different attitude to death and a sense of inner well-being. The changes were reported as stable and permanent, over long periods of time (a mean of over 13 years since the original bereavement experiences). Two psychometric measures showed statistically significant re-sults. The term “post-traumatic transformation” is used to describe the experience of most of the par-ticipants. Parallels are identified between the transformation experienced by the participants and Maslow’s descriptions of “self-actualizers” and the states of optimum human development (or “wake-fulness”) described by spiritual traditions. I suggest reasons for the relationship between psychologi-cal turmoil and personal transformation.
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We describe a multitrait-multimethod (MTMM) approach to studying the construct validity of self-report measures of post-traumatic growth (PTG). The proposed MTMM reveals three important points. First, most cells representing anything other than retrospective self-reports are empty. Behavioural studies are particularly lacking. Second, retrospective and prospective reports of PTG do not converge. Third, retrospective reports of PTG are more related to coping than to prospectively assessed PTG. We call for less research that measures PTG retrospectively and more research that takes seriously this lack of evidence of construct validity. Copyright (C) 2014 European Association of Personality Psychology
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In this chapter we describe differences in the reflections of victims on their experience. To get behind the distinction between of simple and complex poly-victims or those suffering from recent or historical trauma, we recognise the role played by chance. The difference between the groups lies in the relative prominence of post-traumatic stress disorder among the victims who have faced historical trauma. In seeking to understand how victims reflexively engage with their narrative chances, it is important that a backdrop to those chances be provided. We posit distinctions in the chance narrative that are reflected in both the focus group discussions and interview data.
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The Concept of Posttraumatic GrowthThe Process of Posttraumatic GrowthWays Clinicians can Facilitate the Process of Posttraumatic GrowthConclusion
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