Survivor Journeys

A story well told can change lives.
This first group of stories show brief snapshots of the journeys of survivors who have been able to transcend their trauma and connect it to larger themes of human existence: faith, aesthetics, social action, those suffering in previous times or in other cultures and locations.

This next group of stories represent the experiences and insights of survivors at many different stages of processing. It takes a life time to absorb the unimaginable. Initially there is shock. Then there is pain and sadness and sometimes despair. And then slowly, slowly meaning, hope, and vision. Much of what is experienced is beyond words, so survivors and their friends will often draw on music, art, poetry, as well as story telling to evoke what cannot be said. Even after the initial shock and pain is well past, survivors continue to reflect on their world in new ways.

If trauma and loss happen for the first time late in life, professional self-confidence is sometimes shaken to the depths but along side of the self-doubt and insecurity, there may be an intense drive to blend professional identity and experience. Survivors attacked late in high school, during college, or well into parenthood and professions often use their developing public identity to change public policy, work on missions of compassion, or change the face of art and journalism.

If exposure to human-inflicted horror happens early and often enough an entire personality can fracture into pieces and a lifetime may be spent converting the mosaic of self into a whole picture. But even a fractured personality can be driven to look beyond themselves to do immense good for those around them.

Sometimes telling the story of what happened can take great courage. The public at large, defense lawyers and the justice system have not always been kind to those who tell stories of violence. The survivors in the list below have been willing to testify in open court, sometimes at great risk to themselves.

Survivors often feel like outcasts. Their experience is so different from what we expect from life that it can be very hard to talk about. We also have a social and psychological need to emotionally distance ourselves from things that remind us that one can do all the right things and still be attacked. This further isolates survivors.

Violent crime and terror can happen to anyone, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, the successful and the marginal. Celebrity survivors often go public with their stories in hopes that survivors will be embolded to tell their stories and get what help they need to process it. They also hope society at large will be more accepting of survivors and invest more money in both prevention and helping people with the aftermath.

Celebrity is no guarentee of healing. Like those who have told their stories in forums across the web, celebrity survivors who have gone public with their stories are at many different stages of processing their experience.

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