According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, researcher and professor of psychology at the University of California ” Construing benefit from trauma involves seeing some value or gain (a silver lining) in your loss or negative life event” (1) . This does not by any means signify that you forgot the event or feel good about it in any way. It means that somehow, you now view your life with other eyes, with a different perspective that sometimes can render your life richer, deeper.
Even if it seems impossible to one day believe that your life has been somehow “enhanced” by the traumatic event, numerous studies of populations affected by major trauma have found that 79 to 80 % of people affected by a traumatic event report that they see some benefit in their experience. (2)
Often, it is the famous “wake-up call” that makes one review the order of their priorities and start living with a new purpose, become more grateful for what we have. Studies show that people that have been touched by cancer, HIV, aids and heart disease and that are coping effectively with their disease, generally perceive some benefits in their ordeal. This perception becomes a coping mechanism.
Some survivors of major tragedies have reported seeing colours more sharply, paying more attention to what surrounds them, living in the present. Of course, this fact does not diminish in any way the pain, the shock, the incredible pain victims of traumatic events go through.
The people of Lac Megantic have been affected by such a traumatic event on July 6th 2013 when an out of control train full of fuel derailed in the middle of the center of their town and destroyed a large part of what was the main area of the village , le “centre-ville”.
This year, the cultural committee has organized a wonderful exhibition named “Les Chemins de la renaissance” (Paths to rebirth), a title that talks about the next step, hope, life after major hardship.
Our first visit since the event was the week before and had left us shocked, distressed, so sad. When you realise the magnitude of what is today gone, how anything can change in a split second, it makes you reflect on death and you spend a moment of silence for all these victims.
Last week-end was very different. The opening of the show talked about hope, of reconstruction, there was activity everywhere you looked, workers busy paving a new street, between new stores.
There was good energy, an extraordinary effervescence surrounded us, optimism. The high-caliber exhibition regroups 18 local artists and 21 artists from outside the region. I am very happy the jury picked my painting “Innocence” and that it was part of this exhibition because several elements of the painting are symbolic of rebirth and hope, the child, the dove of peace in the background, her concentrated and serious expression while looking at the flower. We made great encounters with dynamic and involved people, dedicated and courageous men and women.
The reconstruction is being done in a very modern architecture next to the Sports Center where the gallery is situated and this week, we noticed that piled up debris seemed less high, the affected perimeter is still closed but we can see that they are progressing with enormous strides even if there is still a lot of work, decontamination, decisions.
Today, 1000 bikers and more than 700 facilitators of the Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie are making a stop in Lac Megantic. It is on the host site of the Sport Center Megantic and the new Promenade Papineau that they will all meet.
Lac Mégantic needs our support, our presence, to share their experience. I invite everyone to go this summer to see how life is rising back, how these courageous men and women are rebuilding their wonderful part of the country and at the same time, stop by the Galerie du Centre Sportif to admire the artworks of artists from the region and elsewhere in Quebec.
(1) Lyubomirsky S., 2007,The How of Happiness, The Penguin Press, New-York, London.
(2) Nolen-Hoeksema, S., and Davis, C.G., 2002, Positive responses to loss: Perceiving benefits and growth, in Handbook of positive psychology. Editors: Snyder, C. R.., Lopez, S.J, (pp. 598-606), Oxford University Press, New-York.
©2014 Suzanne Bélair