The Wall Street Journal recently published an article http://on.wsj.com/1LmwVb3 on a new area of research — the surprising upside of surviving a tragedy — like stroke. In 2013 a young psychologist at Harvard surveyed 50 individuals who’d been paralyzed in accidents decades earlier, 50 lottery winners who took home about $6 million a decade earlier, and the same number of people who had experienced neither. The three groups reported about the same level of happiness, though the accident survivors were slightly happier than the others.
That probably amazes most people, but after reading posts on stroke Facebook groups, listening at support groups and interviewing people who’ve recovered from strokes, I’m not surprised. So many individuals have said how grateful they are and how happy they are with their “new lives.” They refer to the date of their stroke as their “re-birth” and throw parties. There is life after stroke, and it can be happy.
This is all part of a new way of thinking about and researching the aftermath of trauma. Working in the early 1980s, Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun at the University of North Carolina, first coined the term “post-traumatic growth” to describe the positive changes that many survivors were reporting. I’ve seen a lot of evidence of this and would love to hear more about it. If you have comments or stories, please let me know here.