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Carol K. Stewart, Nicole Snyder, William Flythe, Glenda Dickonson, Amanda Dillehay, Kari O'Grady, Ph.D.

A Posttraumatic Investigation of the 2010 Haiti Cosmology Episode: A Three Year Qualitative Follow-up

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Six months after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, survivors were interviewed to learn about their recovery and meaning making processes (O’Grady,, 2013). The proposed poster presents the results of an iterative grounded theory follow-up study of twenty-one adult survivors conducted three years after the original cosmology event. Emergent themes derived from participants helped elucidate the psycho-spiritual pathways involved in posttraumatic transformation processes following large-scale community trauma. The findings from the study helped refine a theoretical model of posttraumatic transformation. Both the model and the findings will be presented.

The Posttraumatic Transformation (PTT) model provided the theoretical framework for the study (O’Grady, et al., 2013). The PTT model describes the cognitive processes that occur following a traumatic life event. According to the PTT model, change is triggered by traumatic life events. Weick, (1993) described these events as “cosmology episodes” and stated that such episodes (1979) defy the global cognitive framework of an individual. Calhoun & Tedeschi, (2006) described this global cognitive framework shift as the dividing of one’s life into pre- trauma and post-trauma periods.

The PTT model describes the inability of the global cognitive framework to function in a person’s life as senselosing (Orton 2001; O’Grady et. al, 2013). The restructuring and reorganizing of the global cognitive framework to accommodate and cope with the cosmology episode is referred to as sensemaking (O’Grady, et. al, 2013.; Park 2005). It further asserts that individuals engage in either enactive or retentive senselosing/sensemaking processes, which results in growth, stagnation, or decline. Research indicates that the stress induced by cosmology episodes can create an optimal atmosphere for senselosing/ sensemaking to occur, particularly when individuals encounter the event with openness and optimism. This openness to transformation is referred to as “enactive” senselosing/sensemaking” and typically results in growth. Whereas when people cope with the cosmology episode through denial or by holding rigidly to their global cognitive framework, they tend to struggle with the senselosing/sensemaking process. This rigid approach is referred to as “retentive” senselosing/sensemaking and typically results in decline (Aten, et. al, 2014; Park, 2008; Weick, 1993; 1995).

Enactive Senselosing/Sensemaking
The attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that encouraged enactive senselosing/sensemaking in participants included (a) acceptance, (b) positive appraisal, (c) perceptions of divine intervention, (d) faith, (e) courage, (f) hope, (g) spiritual practices, and (h) helping others. The outcome for participants engaging in enactive senselosing/sensemaking was psycho-spiritual growth manifested as (a) increased courage, (b) improved sense of spiritual identity, (c) increased altruism, and (d) enhanced awareness of one’s ability to choose.

Retentive Senselosing/Sensemaking
The attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that tended to promote retentive senselosing/sensemaking in participants included (a) lack of acceptance, (b) feelings of hopelessness, (c) a sense of helplessness, (d) negative spiritual appraisal, (e) overall sense of resignation, and (f) disengagement from others. The outcome for participants who engaged in retentive senselosing/sensemaking was psycho-spiritual decline manifested as (a) a sense of abandonment by God and others and (b) feelings of frustration. A few participants also reported no psycho-spiritual change following the earthquake.

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