The present study explored the potential for growth within an often-overlooked group of injured or ill Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Veterans, and their support networks (spouse, sibling). Growth is most commonly understood as perceived positive changes experienced by individuals following a stressor which propel them to a higher level of functioning (Salim et al., 2015). The study sought to develop a unique, context-specific understanding of growth within the CAF. Additionally, the study focused on the potential impact of stress and trauma on support members and subsequent positive change experiences (secondary growth) following indirect exposure to a loved one's trauma (Dekel et al., 2015).
The present study was guided by sport injury growth research (Roy-Davis et al., 2016) and caregiver growth research (Leith et al., 2018; Mavandadi et al., 2014; Savage & Bailey, 2004). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 7 participants; 1 dyad, 1 triad, a single veteran, and a single support person. Six higher order themes emerged: relationships, power of the uniform, new perspectives, complex support paradox, letting go and moving forward, and the caregiver experience. Support members in the CAF context were highlighted as key pieces in the recovery and growth process but are often overlooked. With the evident lack of support highlighted by Veterans and support members, the present study provides a crucial first step to addressing support issues and developing strategies to support the CAF population following trauma. This presentation will focus on emergent themes and specific implications for the CAF population and their support members.