A Family Affair
Growth within injured Veterans and their support networks
Stress and trauma are part of nearly everyone’s life at some point, and so it is important to understand the potential for positive outcomes to emerge. In many populations, ranging from elite athletes to terrorist victims (Hobfoll et al., 2007; Roy-Davis, Wadey, & Evans, 2017), people have demonstrated their ability to grow and prosper. This process of growth is best understood when broken down into five main areas that include individuals’ transformations in: (1) personal relationships, (2) their appreciation for life, (3) personal strength, (4) new possibilities, and (5) spiritual development. Caregivers (or support persons) experience similar changes through their efforts to provide support and assist their loved one in the recovery process (Cassidy, 2013).
The purpose of my study was to see if the process of growth is the same in the Canadian Armed forces environment, and to understand the experience of support persons moving through recovery. After interviewing seven participants, I found both veterans and support persons had experienced growth following their injuries or health issues. One participant explained his experiences with PTSD as a “beautiful, marvelous journey,” while another explained that “without having gone through this recovery process with my spouse, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” However, one of the largest difficulties highlighted by both parties was a lack of support.
For the veteran members, the support they received was almost always too little, too late. For some participants, external programs were helpful in their recovery, but most were left feeling unsupported and unprepared to move away from their identity as a member of the armed forces, transitioning into civilian life. Support persons highlighted the belief that the available support was only intended for veterans and they felt unsupported within their roles as caregivers. So, although veterans and their support people show potential to see positive benefits following injury or health issues, it remains an important next step to look into the support provided from the level of the organization to assist individuals to achieve growth and to prosper.
Cassidy, T. (2013). Benefit finding through caring: The cancer caregiver experience. Psychology and Health, 28(3), 250-266. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2012.717623
Hobfoll, S., Hall, B., Canetti-Nisim, D., Galea, S., Johnson, R., & Palmieri, P. (2007). Refining our understanding of traumatic growth in the face of terrorism: Moving from meaning cognitions to doing what is meaningful. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 56(3), 345-366. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-0597.2007.00292.x
Roy-Davis, K., Wadey, R., & Evans, L. (2017). A grounded theory of sport injury-related growth. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 6(1), 35-52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/spy0000080