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




Spirituality and Trauma: What’s the Relationship?


*Feather in the Sand by Sherry Vance

Duane Bowers, Trauma Specialist, assists clients and victims of violent crime navigate the world of traumatic events .  As a seasoned professional working with family members experiencing a myriad of losses, he perhaps has seen it all as a licensed professional counselor, an on scene first responder trainer and professor.

However, his keen instincts, descriptive communication style, and his ability to put situations in perspective, assist people on the road to healing. Providing  reassurance, comfort and practical recommendations are crucial to achieving a “new normal “ when faced with the number of small town and yet nationwide events that have plagued our nation in recent months, creating  an impact similar to the domino effect.

How do we make sense of it all?  And better yet….  What value and importance do we assign it to our lives?  As Ladyjustice and Delilah learned in this hour of “Shattered Lives”, how we deal with these traumatic events has everything to do with our own brand of spirituality.  Whether we “sink to the depths” or are able to remain buoyant and move on with life without being paralyzed by fear and confined to a restrictive lifestyle is up to us.

Duane guides us in defining our own spirituality and  assessing value placed on each violent occurrence…  Safe in this knowledge, we will hopefully be equipped for tomorrow and the next day and the next….

To Listen to this Podcast, CLICK HERE

  • Introduction to our guest:
  • Discussion of the differences between spirituality, religion and
  • What value we give to traumatic events?
  • De-realization versus De-personalization responses;
  • What does it mean “not to fit in the world” anymore?
  • What is the composition of a person’s spirituality?
  • Discussion of accidental versus intentional;
  • Delilah and Duane – Different  perspectives – Collective fear…or “Thank God they’ve got this under control”?
  • Only two ways of looking at the future….
  • The constant ,instant news factor… Media 24/7;
  • More information, More control and how it affects crime victims…
  • Ladyjustice shares a need for control during the conviction of her father’s murderer;
  • Preparation versus spiritual incorporation explained….
  • How does your world view help or hinder?
  • Discussions of Ladyjustice’s favorite term…“Post traumatic growth”
  • The parents of Newtown going to Washington – an example;
  • Delilah on  society wanting instantaneous change…and how do we gaintrust in humanity again?
  • Making change – What is your world view –part of the solution versus a problem;
  • Ladyjustice  asks about proactivity and taking responsibility;
  • Duane’s message re vigilance and those on the extremes;
  • Spirituality comes from us…. We create it ;
  • Discussion of What is it that we expect from our God? Asking, not getting-“Failure” versus giving us the resilience…
  • “Seeing the news” or seeing  impressions; “How we think about the news”
  • Ladyjustice asks if there are generational differences in  coping with mass tragedies?
  • Ladyjustice asks about fluidity and your spirituality….
  • Fear versus hope entwined with one’s spirituality;
  • Mr. Roger’s Quote-  a wonderful perspective;
  • Crowd control; a military state and .how much people will tolerate…
  • The essence of spirituality-: Allowing  a future providing hope, lots of possibilities and strength….


Questions you may be wondering about?

  • How do we deal with successive tragedies on a mass scale?
  • What’s the relationship between spirituality,  de-realization and  de-personalization?
  • Two traumatic situations close in time- Texas and Boston… Are the reactions similar Why-why-not?
  • What part does fear play in spirituality?
  • Is media responsible in their reporting of these events?
  • How is putting things in order related to spirituality and our sense of control?
  • Can we experience post –traumatic growth from these events? How?
  • What role does activism play in our personal growth?
  • What’s the larger perspective in terms of trusting?
  • How do we balance complacency versus the other extreme of hyper-vigilance?
  • What can people do as a result of the Boston event?
  • Does or Should God give us everything we ask for…Why-Why Not?
  • How do we determine what  fits my world view and value system?
  • How do people with rigid beliefs cope with trauma?

Spirituality and Trauma:  What’s the Relationship?


*To purchase photography by Sherry Vance refer to her collection.