Post-traumatic growth: Why one doctor predicts people will thrive when the pandemic passes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – We’ve heard of post-traumatic stress, but what about post-traumatic growth?

It’s a term used to describe feelings of joy, creativity and purpose people feel following a devastating event.

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News 8 spoke with Dr. Heather Fretwell, psychiatrist at Eskenazi Health, about why the psychological struggle associated with the coronavirus pandemic will help us become better people moving forward.

“It can really lead to a deep re-thinking of what’s important in life,” Fretwell said. “It can lead to this really big exploration of existential questions like what are the most important parts of life while being a human in this lifetime, within our communities, within our families and what do I want to do with that?

Fretwell predicts people’s perspective on life will change once the pandemic passes. People will choose to not just survive, but thrive.

There’s more to post-traumatic growth, though. It’s realizing things we may have taken for granted in the past, but no longer will.

News 8 hit the streets of downtown Indy to talk to folks about what they can’t wait to do once the pandemic is behind us. One person said she’s excited to go to a large concert — unmasked crowd and all. Another said he and his buddies are excited to go back to amusement parks once the group feels safe again. And one women looks forward to heading back to the gym — with a fabric-free face.

Fretwell chimed in as well.

“My husband and I aren’t the most exciting people in the world, but one of the things we’ve missed so terribly is a date that involves dinner and a movie,” she said with a laugh.

She also thinks people will start to understand the things that really matter in life.

“We as humans have the capacity to renew ourselves,” Fretwell said. “We have the ability to find new purpose and deeply appreciate the people in our life and novel experiences. Maybe this will decrease some of our procrastination, help us think differently about how we approach work-life balance or how we approach our family and friends and bringing the important people in our life together.”


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