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Plane crashes, survivor guilt and the grief of loss: Part II

In our last post, we discussed the difficult mental, emotional and psychological consequences associated with fatal or near-fatal airplane crashes. These consequences vary depending on one's relationship to the crash itself. Families and friends who lost loved ones in the crash struggle with profound grief. Survivors of an otherwise deadly crash suffer that same grief, but they may also experience post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor guilt.

As we mentioned in our last post, if you have suffered significant harm (physical or mental) as the result of a plane crash, you may be able to pursue compensation from any parties responsible for the crash. Compensation alone cannot make victims whole, but it is a proper and necessary gesture nonetheless.

In today's post, we wanted to highlight the fact that tragedy sometimes has an unanticipated silver lining. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a medical condition that has been widely recognized for decades. But in the late 1990s, some researchers began to study a phenomenon referred to as post-traumatic growth. According to an article in the Atlantic, the term is defined as “positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event.”

Researchers have found that post-traumatic growth can lead to one or more of five positive outcomes:

  • The survivor finds that he has increased inner strength
  • The survivor discovers new possibilities in life
  • The survivor develops deeper and more meaningful relationships with others
  • The survivor strengthens his sense of spirituality
  • The survivor develops a greater appreciation of life

Sometimes, growth occurs as the result of our most difficult trials. Those who have studied post-traumatic growth say that survivors can experience it at the same time as they experience PTSD.

While the potential for growth is a reason to be hopeful, it does not diminish the need to adequately address the trauma and other negative consequences associated with devastating events (such as plane crashes). Regaining mental and physical health takes time and significant resources. For this and other reasons, victims and their families should speak to an experienced aviation attorney about their rights and legal options.

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