Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Heart-Shattered Lives and Post-Traumatic Growth

Would you ever use the word "shattered heart" to describe a time in your life where something so horrible occurred that you were not sure you were going to make it through?   Maybe it was the tragic death of someone close to you, or betrayal in a relationship that was so piercing you felt you might die. It could be the incredible disappointment of raising a child who you have loved for years who is now living a desperate, estranged life.   Or maybe the realization you had when you realized that an addiction that you were sure was just a bad habit you could break any time had taken over your life.   Those are all heart-shattering moments.

A term has surfaced in research that has recently caught my attention.  It is called "post-traumatic growth."

Here is how it was defined by a couple researchers (Calhoun and Tedeshi).
Post-traumatic growth is positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning. These circumstances represent significant challenges to the adaptive resources of the individual, and pose significant challenges to their way of understanding the world and their place in it.  Post-traumatic growth is not about returning to the same life as it was previously experienced before a period of traumatic suffering, but rather it is about undergoing significant 'life-changing' psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world, that contribute to a personal process of change, that is deeply meaningful.
As I look back on my life I realize that I have had some of this occur.   But for those of us who are Christians, there is another layer to all of this.   When we hit bottom we learn who God is and we learn who we are in relation to Him.  We learn to say, just as Job did,  "You are God and I am not... I put my hand over my mouth."

Psalm  51 in the Message says this:
I learned God-worship    when my pride was shattered.Heart-shattered lives ready for love    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
Having our hearts shattered eventually leads to psychological growth.  But more importantly, when our pride is shattered because we result in learning to really worship God.    Like Job, we realize that His thoughts are higher than ours and that "the Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away."

And I love the way the verse ends.  Heart-shattered lives are ready for love.   Broken, open, waiting, exposed, raw.... those are the lives which don't for a moment escape God's notice.  He sees us.  He knows how we feel.  He reaches down to provide healing and hope.

If you are in a period of time where you feel like your heart it shattered -- know that this is the beginning of a journey.  A journey towards growth... but also toward worship, towards healing, towards wholeness, towards hope.

It's a guarantee.


Marcie in Montana said...

Spot on! Some profound thoughts here!

Daisy Doodle, the happy rescue goldendoodle said...

Tomorrow is Phil's birthday. He'll be 38 years old. It's been a year and a half since life changed forever. He's doing well in the hospital. It took a long time to get where he is now. His brain had so much to recover from. But slowly things have gotten better. I'm grateful for those who care for him. In the first few months there he got into a fight with another patient. Two staff were injured dealing with him. I spoke with a psychiatrist during the commitment process. He had so much empathy. He understood Phil didn't start life mentally ill and aggressive. He told me schizophrenia had stolen our son from us. Mark and I are finally beginning to live again. We dealt with the trauma and loss differently and it was very hard on our marriage. But because we couldn't count on the mental health system to keep Phil behind a locked door we had to sell the house and get re-settled as fast as humanly possible. It's been hard. It's been lonely. I miss my gardens. But we're building new gardens and making this house our own. God protected us and held us up when we were too sad to move. I'm happy to say we just celebrated our anniversary and feel so grateful for our marriage. I miss my mother, Phil, our MN home and our wonderful friends. But we are good. We've weathered the worst and we're stronger. My older boys have healed from the trauma and stress. They can come to our home again knowing it is once again a safe place to be. Phil is safe and getting treatment, we're safe and enjoying getting to know our new city and we can spend much more time with my older boys and grandchildren. There is a good life on the other side of tragedy. I wouldn't wish this on our worst enemies but out of the trauma and loss we are all better for haven taken this journey together. I have no doubt God has protected us all. Miss you Claudia!