Your Personal Renaissance

Life's true calling

Traumatic Growth: What Makes the Difference?

Why some people thrive after traumatic loss

Suddenly the worst happens: violence, accidents, life-threatening illness--traumatic loss—and life is never the same again. Many people are defeated by traumatic loss, but others emerge stronger¸ more hopeful and resilient, going on to live more vibrant and meaningful lives.

What makes the difference?  The fascinating new book, Supersurvivors¸ answers this question with dramatic accounts of men and women who’ve experienced post-traumatic growth.  One man loses a leg in an accident, then becomes a Hollywood stunt man. A woman recovers from a life-threatening illness to become a world-class violinist. Another woman awakens from a coma, rebuilding her life and bringing her company back from bankruptcy. And after losing a friend in the September 2001 attacks, a multimillionaire CEO  gives away his possessions to become a priest, then helps rebuild his community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (Feldman & Kravetz, 2014).

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What can we learn from these “super survivors”? The ability to:

  • See beyond superficial “positive thinking.”
  • Connect with our deepest values.
  • Believe in the power of our choices to control our destiny
  • Live with hope, combining goals and strategic problem-solving with a powerful sense of possibility (Snyder, 1994).

And ultimately, we discover our ability to deal with unforeseen challenges and realize the remarkable potential of the human spirit.


Feldman, David B. & Kravetz, Lee Daniel. (2014). Supersurvivors: The surprising link between suffering and success. New York, NY: HarperCollins. For more information on the book see or

Snyder, C. R. (1994). The Psychology of Hope. (1994). New York: Simon & Schuster.


Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, personal coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.

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Diane Dreher, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor of English at Santa Clara University.


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