The death of my daughter Georgie was the greatest thing to happen to me.
That’s jarring to read, I know. Believe me, it’s jarring to write.
Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen bench staring down the seventh anniversary of my daughter Georgie’s death. Seven years on and I still catch my breath at the shock of her stillbirth. The day I was told by a doctor at 36 weeks pregnant that there was ‘no heartbeat’ was the worst day of my life – second only to the day I delivered her. There are no words to describe the horror and sheer devastation of rocking your own deceased child in your arms, trying to sing and pat her back to life. It is a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And at the time, I didn’t think I could survive the pain I was in. I felt like I was going to be dragged under the waves of grief.
But here’s the thing I didn’t fully understand seven years ago. Sometimes these incredible traumas that feel as though they are going to break us actually break us open instead. And that’s what happened to me. More on that in a moment.
This week I read an estimated 75 percent of people will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. Looking around at my friends, neighbours and colleagues that sounds about right. And while we usually associate trauma with negative outcomes (including PTSD) more than half of people who survive trauma report positive outcomes. (You can read that article here.)
In other words, these events which bring us to our knees – the death of a child, the loss of job, a marriage breakdown, a parent’s suicide, an injury, a health diagnosis – rather than destroy us can act as a catalyst – a springboard – for us to lead a more profound life.
Science calls it Post Traumatic Growth – an expression coined in 1996 by researchers Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun.