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Even in Trauma, Look for the Stars

Dr. Jamie Aten, a cancer survivor and a Christian who researches how people respond to trauma, wrote in The Washington Post in which he urged trauma survivors to "make meaning of your experience." Here's what Aten wrote:

Most of us operate from what some researchers refer to as a "just" worldview. We tend to believe that if we are good, good things will happen. It's difficult, then, to make meaning when bad things happen to us.
I went to the doctor for tests because of shooting pains in my leg. I never dreamed it was from a mass sitting on a nerve bundle in my pelvis. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around what had happened. Thoughts like, "Wasn't I a good person?" plagued me. A colleague of mine deployed to help with a relief agency after Superstorm Sandy, and she met a man whose roof had been blown away by gale-strength winds. This man surprised the relief team with an optimistic quip: "Sometimes you have to lose the roof," he said, "to see the stars." There is a man who knows how to find meaning in loss.
My colleagues and I have interviewed and surveyed disaster survivors about their views of God in the wake of catastrophe. We have found that you can have two people who go through almost identical losses, with one believing God saved them, while the other believes God is punishing them.
Remember, they went through the same disaster. But in a forthcoming volume of Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, we found that the person who doesn't find positive meaning is likely to struggle a great deal more. I encourage you: Even in the worst moments, look for the stars.

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