Victim, Survivor, Thriver: A New Perspective on Grief


From my perspective, after nearly 37 years, I take comfort in the knowledge that through the devastation left by the murder of my father, I have been able to thrive, bring comfort, knowledge and assistance to others in entirely different ways than I ever thought possible!

Over the past several years, mentors, including Susan Murphy Milano, homicide survivor and nationally known Intimate Partner Violence Expert and Advocate, Delilah Jones, President of ImaginePublicity, and Monica Caison, Founder of the CUE Center for Missing Persons, have given me opportunities and have made indelible marks on my life.  Thankfully, each of them has helped me graduate to true thriver mode in a myriad of ways. And, so can you!  

I would like to share the contents of a unique and valuable concept, with credit given to Dr. Barbara Whitfield a thalantologist (An expert in the study of death and dying). This chart is vital to the understanding of this progressive, useful concept.

As the theory goes, after having experienced a trauma, a person progresses, or gets stuck in a progression, from being labeled a ”victim,” then a ”survivor, followed by a “thriver.”

Upon discovering this material, I was delighted to identify myself as a “thriver” in nearly every category! Reading from left to right (Refer to chart)  from victim, to survivor to thriver, you can really see the progression of less needy, more independence and self-confidence in a person’s healing progression.

I challenge each reader to determine where they fit here and now on this chart. It is a perfect way to determine your emotional health goals. It is truly a map for post traumatic growth. Once you realize this, bask in your progress!

    From Victim to Survivor to Thriver


Victim Survivor Thriver
Doesn’t deserve nice things or trying for the “good life.” Struggling for reasons & chance to heal Gratitude for everything in life.
Low self esteem/shame/unworthy Sees self as wounded & healing Sees self as an overflowing miracle
Hyper vigilant Using tools to learn to relax Gratitude for new life
Alone Seeking help Oneness
Feels Selfish Deserves to seek help Proud of Healthy Self caring
Damaged Naming what happened Was wounded & now healing
Confusion & numbness Learning to grieve, grieving past ungrieved trauma Grieving at current losses
Overwhelmed by past Naming & grieving what happened Living in the present
Hopeless Hopeful Faith in self & life
Uses outer world to hide from self Stays with emotional pain Understands that emotional pain will pass & brings new insights
Hides their story Not afraid to tell their story to safe people. Beyond telling their story, but always aware they have created their own healing with HP
Believes everyone else is better, stronger, less damaged Comes out of hiding to hear others & have compassion for them & eventually self Lives with an open heart for self & others
Often wounded by unsafe others Learning how to protect self by share, check, share Protects self from unsafe others
Places own needs last Learning healthy needs (See Healing the Child Within & Gift to Myself) Places self first realizing that is the only way to function & eventually help others
Creates one drama after another See patterns Creates peace
Believes suffering is the human condition Feeling some relief, knows they need to continue in recovery Finds joy in peace
Serious all the time Beginning to laugh Seeing the humor in life
Uses inappropriate humor, including teasing Feels associated painful feelings instead Uses healthy humor
Uncomfortable, numb or angry around toxic people Increasing awareness of pain & dynamics Healthy boundaries around toxic people, incl. relatives
Lives in the past Aware of patterns Lives in the Now
Angry at religion Understanding the difference between religion & personal spirituality Enjoys personal relationship with the God of their understanding
Suspicious of therapists– projects Sees therapist as guide during projections Sees reality as their projection & owns it.
Needs people & chemicals to believe they are all right Glimpses of self-acceptance & fun without others Feels authentic & connected, Whole
“Depression” Movement of feelings Aliveness



©Barbara Whitfield 2003




From Heartache to Hope and Beyond…………….. DYING TO LIVE by Amy Susan Crohn

Dying to Live, Amy Susan Crohn, ImaginePublicity,Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice

We never know what mountains we have to scale as a child… We also consider our lives “normal” when we have no other point of reference… However, if we as human beings are indeed able and willing to be firmly placed in the category of ”survival of the fittest,” no matter what befalls us, there is always hope…There is a God…There is sheer will…

Consider a vulnerable child growing up on “the edge of life”… an existence fraught with problems; ‘an existence vacuous to a little girl who holds so much promise on the inside… And yet, this same child is surrounded by dysfunction and lack of care.  How does the “little girl lost” ever navigate her way to calming waters? If she makes it, is there a price to pay? Indeed there is…

The totality of such events on a single life is an accumulation of so much wreckage that something just has to give way…A body, mind and spirit can only withstand so much before irreparable damage is done!

Amy Susan Crohn  was this little girl. She has scaled the mountain many times… As an author, she relates an extremely compelling account of her journey – one part healing, another part education, still another part wishing to convey that “aha light bulb moment” to those with similar circumstances.  Her memoir, “Dying to Live” is unique in that it espouses a theory supported by many clinical studies linking childhood trauma and maltreatment unquestionably to a variety of adult chronic illnesses and perhaps even premature death.

Ladyjustice embarked on a quick search… which validated this information.  Amy has done far more research and deserves much credit for bringing this “out of the shadows” in her book.

Examples located by Ladyjustice:

1) “Childhood Trauma Linked to Risk for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; January 5, 2009:

This article identified childhood trauma (sexual and emotional is associated with a six-fold increase as a risk factor for chronic fatigue syndrome…  Cortisol aka the “stress hormone” particularly when diminished or when constantly “tuned to be on high alert” produces abnormal responses to stress.

“Children who are abused or neglected suffer physical and emotional injuries,” said Ileana Arias, PhD, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “We now know that some types of chronic diseases may surface years later as well. This research adds to that growing body of knowledge and reinforces that we must stop child maltreatment before it begins. Creating safe, stable, and nurturing relationships (SSNRs) between children and adults is an effective buffer to reduce the risk for maltreatment.”

2) “Childhood Adversity Linked to Chronic Physical, Mental Disability” UPI; University of Pittsburg School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic; May 9, 2013;

Dr. David A. Brent with Dr. Michael Silverstein (Boston University School of Medicine) state that “early childhood adversity, including exposure to domestic violence –intimate partner-family violence, maltreatment or serious mental illness has been linked to many chronic conditions including premature death.”

3) “Maltreatment Linked to Mental and Physical Health Disorders in Later Life” (Medical Xpress) University of Queenland, Australia; November 28, 2012

Dr. Rosana Norman of the UQ’s Children’s Medical Research Institute found out of 124 studies conducted, very few included children of low-income families (only 16 studies). These children were at high risk of developing a variety of problems as adults…

“They found that individuals who had been emotionally abused as children were about three times more likely to develop depression, while individuals who had been physically abused or neglected were one-and-a-half to two times more likely to develop depression than people who had not been abused or neglected.

Researchers also established a link between anxiety disorders, drug abuse, and suicidal behavior and childhood abuse.

They also found that children who had been maltreated had a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and/or risky sexual behavior as adults than people who had not experienced abuse.

Dr. Norman said the evidence suggests a causal relationship between non-sexual child maltreatment and a range of mental disorders. “

Beyond the Research…

Amy Susan Crohn, Dying to Live, Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice,ImaginePublicityAmy Susan Crohn explains such occurrences in “Dying to Live” in very personal terms as she takes the reader from childhood abuse and neglect to a dual diagnosis of cancer of the lymph system with its invasive procedures to lupus [Definition-an autoimmune disorder which can effect any part of the body or organ system in which viruses, bacteria and other germs cannot be protected regular antibodies. Auto-antibodies/proteins that attack the body’s tissues and destroy normal cells].

Amy also developed Crohn’s disease [Definition- Crohn’s disease causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, most commonly, the small intestine (ileitis). Periodic flare-ups lead to bouts of stomach (abdominal) pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss and low energy. There is no cure, but treatment can reduce inflammation and ease your symptoms, sometimes for long periods of remission. Crohn’s disease is one type of inflammatory bowel disease.]   ***And… there is an ancestral connection here….to the MD credited with first discovering the disease in 1932…. YES…really!

Amy’s book is applicable to so many chronic physical and mental health issues experienced at one time or another throughout her life, that any reader will find it valuable…  Such as: Anyone who has interest in:

Cancer; Lupus; Fibromyalgia; Chronic illness; Childhood maltreatment; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Depression; Grief; Autoimmune disorders; Crohn’s Disease; Medical practitioners; Book clubs eager to read this memoir.

There are virtually millions of people worldwide who suffer from these conditions….  It is that commonality that is Amy’s current mission. Commonality is the lifeblood of our own human interconnectibility.

If you can save but one life by teaching others from your own experience, you have truly accomplished something divine!

A few parting words about one’s plight in this world… We can suffer from a variety of illnesses and social injustices in this life.  Formal definitions incorporate associated terms such as “to tolerate,” “to allow,” “to endure,” “to experience,”…whatever it is that comes from evil or from accumulated damage.

The astonishing part of Amy Susan Crohn is that, although she still suffers from the chronic nature of her illnesses, it is no longer in silence….but for the mutual benefit of others… AND…finally, she is on a healing path…always with hope and love for others.

To purchase: “Dying to Live”!buy/c1tkx

From Heartache to Hope and Beyond…………….. DYING TO LIVE by Amy Susan Crohn

The End of Life Journey

As an active observer –participant in the struggle to survive the indomitable forces of cancer…taking a once vibrant woman who told others to “follow her lead as if they had jumping beans in their pants”… and then to gradually succumb to the ravages of the disease, is an experience no one should have to participate in or witness first hand…

It’s an up and down roller coaster ride with so many complex forces to consider, that it catches everyone  off guard… even if your physician, attorney, support  services, hospice try to prepare you … There are a multitude of things that shock and shake you to your very core!  Things that should be that aren’t… Things that don’t make sense in a civilized society, screwed up priorities…  Things that mystify given all that public servants like Susan Murphy-Milano have given to countless others in this world…           We begin to question the existence of God …or God’s wisdom in the unfairness of it all…

If you are a homicide survivor and grew up feeling like a “little medical specimen” for others to study like Ladyjustice, you probably think you know it all when it comes to grief.  However, the trials and tribulations…the long haul nature of cancer in its later stages has been a whole new experience for THIS crime fighter to contend with…

Unless you are there to witness the process in person or have had the experience previously, you have little cognizance of the time, effort, dedication, financial costs, energy expended and emotional toll it takes… not only on the person suffering the cancer, and the caretaker, but the “second ring” of persons as Trauma Specialist Duane Bowers would say.

In addition, when the person who has the cancer does not have immediate family who care, the “second ring” becomes the “first ring” – filling in the gaps…in a very noble and heroic way!

Ladyjustice sometimes feels helpless to make a continuing real contribution when separated geographically. E-mails and postings, support from the circle of friends can all help assuage the grief…  But phone calls can’t realistically be returned “just because you want to know”. Therefore, your head tells you that patience, understanding and compassion MUST kick in…even if your heart tells you otherwise… You may try to assist others as a distraction and cause for the greater good while others are busy.

During this life altering ordeal with Susan Murphy-Milano, Ladyjustice has learned many, many lessons such as:

God – is present and has a plan that we mere morals most likely will not fully understand…if at all. With time and reflection some answers may come to us;

Friendship – is thrown into high gear with the wonderful support that springs forth by those who “always cared anyway’ literally going the extra mile and more… Core people will remain, while others will fall back into their former routines;

Respect– ABOUNDS ….particularly for those closest to the crisis. We must keep in mind that EVERYONE grieves and copes differently according to their comfort level. We can offer help in many forms personally or professionally.  Just because it is OUR need to give, it is not really about us …even if we are hurting!    Ladyjustice and others need to remember and give others their space and own way to process, come to terms and move to the next part of their journey in their chosen ways.   Safe in the knowledge that we care and can be called on, others can and will in their own time take it…with a little encouragement;

Community – consists of the “inner circle,” large groups bound together by the heart wrenching situation, divided into still other sub-groups.  Some participation is active, some is passive. It is an imposition at times for passive observers to ask others to “catch me up” on the details when they too are in the throws of their own activity and grief.  Always be respectful and take the time to use the resources that are out there…Some participants are” the caboose “on the train, some are the engineers and regular passengers” to use a metaphor… That’s just the way it unfolds…

Priorities– whether you are the caretaker, a friend, acquaintance, fan or cheerleader…and involved with someone with a life threatening illness/disease, YOUR priorities will change…at least for the short term…and maybe forever. Your suffering is temporary in the scheme of life,  as is the person’s with the illness until they are in God’s eternal home.         If you suffer too long and too intensely, please seek professional help to put you on the correct path with your loved one…

Health – After this traumatic experience, if you tended to be unhealthy in your eating habits, lifestyle, sleep patterns, your weight, smoking , drinking, workaholic nature… you too will take pause…and hopefully make some type of qualitative, if not quantitative life altering change.  However, do it at your own pace… Listen to your physician, but refuse to” be bullied into change “ if you aren’t ready for “leaps and bounds of change”.  Smaller steps will do… as long as you keep on the path…

Never again will you say “Cancer… (or whatever) can’t happen to me or those I love.”   That refrain is all too common … Take it from a homicide survivor… Yes it can…

If you think you are not up to the task… you will be, because you have to be…  You will do it…’Just look at the “Susan and Delilah blueprint example” we have before us….  Truly amazing!

With Love and Respect,


The Second Ring, the Disenfranchised…Who Are Taking Care of Other Family and the Caregivers?

Duane Bowers, Donna R. Gore,Shattered Lives

Duane T. Bowers looks at the whole picture of life…  As a licensed professional counselor, educator/training consultant and expert, he travels the U.S. and beyond, seeking to help the grief stricken, forging a better understanding and recommending practical measures to improve one’s quality of life …when life looks like a battlefield following war.

Duane can answer many of the why questions (as they are based in physiology); and he is cognizant of the impact of traumatic death, PTSD, grief, suicide and those gone missing. He knows the landscape and the human toll up close and personal through his work with many organizations.  Among them are:  the Office for Victims of Crime, Project Jason, the Cue Center for Missing Persons,  Team Hope, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Association of Missing and Exploited Children and the Canadian Center for Child Protection.

Duane spent an hour with “Ladyjustice” and Delilah focusing on the disenfranchised – those family members and caretakers whose needs are often overlooked when someone is victimized by violent death, loss or life threatening illness. How do you “get off the daily merry-go-round” that never seemto slow down? 

Listen to the latest interview with Duane Bowers: CLICK HERE

  • Ø What is a disenfranchised victim?
  • Ø First ring of survivor… forgetting the second ring; Examples;
  • Ø Reasons for attending only to the victims in the first ring; Levels of disenfranchised –people and pets;
  • Ø The Traumatic Response –  Physiological response followed by behaviors;
  • Ø Keeping Alive…. If stress is prolonged….
  • Ø Immune System , pain,  and immune system importance;
  • Ø Short term memory and remembering under stress;
  • Ø The “pictures in my head”… PTSD…;
  • Ø Introducing counseling  versus  cortisol level  via exercise;
  • Ø Options – “Feeling good about yourself;” Laughing and pretending, Singing, dancing, natural sugars;
  • Ø Delilah asks, Why aren’t MD’s attuned to educating about caretaking the caregiver?
  • Ø Selected Caregiver classes… including hospices;
  • Ø Bodily response with those who are caregivers and “in the second ring;”
  • Ø New DSM category to be introduced in 2013 re PTSD;
  • Ø Services for the second ring?
  • Ø Hospice services including respite;
  • Ø Setting up respite services in an extended family. How to get this training?
  • Ø Chat room question- Where is the respite for other victims who give back to future victims?  Project Jason Retreat as an example. Retreat organizers need respite too! ;
  • Ø Massage, stress management and acupuncture  to decrease stress;
  • Ø Recommended role of extended family members; Lack of recognition and becoming disenfranchised.  Need to  focus on the caregivers;
  • Ø Look at the family unit – the second or third ring… to know, how much am I allowed to be a part of it?
  • Ø Tap into  good friends,  clergy, to assist that second ring;
  • Ø Just being there… and talking, having coffee, venting;
  • Ø  Duane believes victims do not get enough mental health counseling when they need it – Recommends  4 to 8 weeks post trauma;
  • Ø Little things … crying and new research…. When a person’s perspective shifts…..   “Oh don’t cry…everything will be okay…”  Naught!
  • Ø Talk about it with – a good clergymen, a well trained person;
  • Ø Historical perspective -Washington DC  clergy and counseling;
  • Ø Clergy and liability;
  • Ø Doing shows like “Shattered Lives” – a vital part of what we do at Imagine Publicity;
  • Ø Delilah on getting out the resources, education and awareness and “running at high speed;”
  • Ø Duane asking what is the hardest part for caretaker Delilah? – Delilah says… the time to do the things you know you have to do…. Needing 40 hours per day;
  • Ø “Your mental state goes to unfamiliar places…..”
  • Ø Duane on  24 hour crisis lines – Crisis link – highly reputable and trained;
  • Ø;
  • Ø How to read the signs…seeing the red flags and stopping the self-destruction of the second ring and caretakers we love.  Rely on friends versus family members  and “just be there, “pick up the pieces   (do the laundry) or whatever needs  done ; “Drag the person out“ for an hour of fun and relaxation;
  • Ø When those who care are in another state…
  • Ø Long term illness versus a trauma and how it is diagnosed (in name) versus how you feel it;
  • Ø  Scenario – Traumatic event of a violent nature: The first, second and third ring…. Where is the family to support grandma who also needs assistance?  Additional stress and lack of resources… Grandma becomes disenfranchised;
  • Ø Mental health professions need to intercede and set up structure for services and support;
  • Ø High stress; decreased immunity and developing cancer;
  • Ø Medical profession – “Treat everything with a pill”
  • Ø  Trauma, Death and Caregivers- Sleep medication:  Did you know that we MUST dream in order to release stress?  Prescription meds do not allow this… you wake up more exhausted… 
  • Ø  Your retina controls sleep… releasing melatonin to assist with sleep.  Make your environment darker and relax your body…in a habitual way…
  • Ø It takes 21 days to form a habit…..  Good or bad…
  • Ø  “Homework assignments” and closing….