5 Ways Tragedy Makes You A Much Stronger Person, According To Psychologists

A troubling past makes for a bright future.

Last updated on May 09, 2023

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We never want to experience tragedy or see anyone we care about have to go through it, but it's undeniable that those who do suffer tragedy emerge even stronger and have a better grip on true happiness.

Suffering and struggle are a part of life. Too often, we assume we should have struggle-free lives, but things don't work that way.

Do adversity and tragedy help us grow?

The short answer is yes. Tragedy and adversity do, in fact, help us grow as people.


"It is at times of tragedy that we get forced into coping and pushing through, and regardless of what shape you are in on the other side of the tragedy, you can learn from the fact that the world did not stop spinning and you are still moving forward," says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, and author.

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Tragedy and adversity also allow for a reframe of your life.

"I am a big believer that we are often imprisoned by our expectations, scripts, and the illusions that often keep us prisoners to lives that are less than inauthentic," Dr. Durvasula continues.

"Tragedy often shatters these illusions and rewrites these expectations in a way where we may pursue a life in a bolder and innovative way. Once we experience a major loss or shift, we realize that we have far less control than we assume, and risks become easier to take."

Despite the pain and stress that can come from these situations, there are reasons our suffering actually helps us become stronger people.


Here are 5 ways tragedy and suffering make you stronger in the end.

1. Broken backs grow stronger — and so do people.

We become more resilient by gradually overcoming obstacles and tragic events in our lives, and then applying the lessons learned to other areas of our lives.

Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and mental health expert, says, "It is only through this experience of getting over a tragedy or overcoming a specific obstacle that we develop the self-confidence and faith we need in order to be resilient."

"In fact, he continues, "a study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that exposure to adverse experiences may foster mental resilience and may make people less affected by recent adverse events. This goes to show that, in moderation, whatever does not kill us may indeed make us stronger."

2. You learn to face problems head-on.

"In our pain-avoiding culture, there's a common perception that the most psychologically and spiritually healthy are those who avoid crises. But in reality, the opposite is true," says Rev. Dr. Fred Howard, an emergency room physician, ordained minister, and author of "Transforming Faith."


"Those who are mentally and emotionally healthy meet crises head on and resolve them, and therefore avoid the misery of chronic anxiety."

People are only tested in their strength when they are met with adversity or crisis. This is when our true selves come out. Are you calm and collected or do you fall apart at the first sign of trouble? Experiencing tragedy can actually help you become the former.

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3. Taking risks becomes a normal, comfortable habit.

Many people don't take the risks necessary to truly accomplish something great in their life, all because they don't know if they can manage failure.


Corporate psychologist, Dave Popple, Ph.D., says, "Because failure on a larger scale is an unknown experience, people who have not experienced it tend to catastrophize it. However, those who have lived through tragedy know that they have the coping skills to manage catastrophe."

According to Popple, this knowledge allows them to take the risks necessary to do and become something great. "It is a common saying in our business that 90% of great leaders experienced a tragedy in their adolescence and early adulthood, and the other 10% are wildly optimistic," he adds.

Popple kept a tally of how many of the executives he assessed experienced tragedy at an early age, and found that 72 out of 86 had: "Of those I failed to recommend or recommended with reservation only 30 of the 62 had."

4. A slight shift in your thinking leads to healthy responses.

Life's traumas happen to everyone — death, accidents, illness, and economic losses. Preventing traumas from becoming tragedies requires us to focus not on events, but on our response to those events.


"Blaming, anger, withdrawal, and assuming a helpless posture aren't usually the best ways to deal with tragic events," Howard says.

"Strength is demonstrated by giving yourself and others the time and space to work through traumas, and facilitating the re-framing of the trauma in ways that benefit overall health and well-being."

5. You take proper responsibility.

Taking proper responsibility for events is difficult but essential to proper functioning. The burden of any tragedy must be shared.


"When blame is placed squarely on one person or group, this leads to all manner of dysfunction and often perpetuates tragic theater within relationships," adds Howard.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Build Emotional Resilience & Mental Strength When Facing Adversity

Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyle writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly.