Resilience Factors and Posttraumatic Growth for the Widow(er)

After presenting the risk and protective factors of resilience in the context of marital bereavement, let’s address the posttraumatic growth model as it applies to the same context. Posttraumatic growth (PTG) refers to positive changes that occur as a result of going through a traumatic event (Li, Bai, Lou & Cao, 2019; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004). Both individual resilience and social support have been studied and presented as contributors to PTG (Li et al., 2019; Ekim & Ocakci, 2015; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).

In fact, Walsh (2002) finds that social support is an important factor in nurturing resilience. In a grieving situation, individuals mobilize their social and community resources to receive support and overcome the negative effects of loss (Alemayehu, 2014; Walsh, 2006). In the same line of thought, resilience studies on family characteristics demonstrate that a parental figure is necessary for the development of resilience in widow(er)s; helping them lower the risks of poor physical health and other negative effects of bereavement (Alemayehu, 2014; Pierorazio, 2009). Therefore, family can provide an essential support in grieving, because it contains the primary attachment relationships. A secure attachment will allow positive coping when one faces adversity like the passing of a spouse (Li et al., 2019).

Secure attachment relationships and a high degree of intimacy among family members promotes family resilience and can predict PTG (Li et al., 2019). Family resilience is the ability of the family to be resilient during a traumatic event and demonstrate to be even stronger, more resourced and confident. Walsh (2007) points out that the belief system, the organizational pattern and the communication transmitted from the heart of the family to the individual help reduce the risk of vulnerability from adversity such as the passing of a loved one. As per Li el al. (2019), individual resilience holds a positive and predictive relationship to trauma and personal growth. Both individual resilience and family resilience constitute a strong base for posttraumatic growth.

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