Posttraumatic Growth as a Multidimensional Buffer to Severe Death Anxiety: A case of Survivors of the Garissa University Terrorist Attack, Kenya

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The subject of death remains uncomfortable across many cultures globally. Exposure to one’s own death could trigger severe existential anxiety which has been widely seen as negative. However there is emerging evidence that death anxiety has the potential to bring about positive transformation that could act as a protective factor to future threat to life. This study sought to examine the positive outcomes of death anxiety among survivors of the Garissa University terrorist attack. The study employed the mixed methods sequential explanatory design by combining survey and phenomenological research designs. A sample of 257 participants was selected using simple random sampling, extreme case sampling and automatic inclusion sampling techniques. Data were collected using the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) and in-depth interviews. The findings of the study established that three years after the life threatening experience of the terrorist attack, survivors reported significant shift in their world view. Specifically survivors reported increased self-esteem, improved self-efficacy, increased altruistic behavior, spiritual growth and improved interpersonal relationship. This was corroborated by high means on the posttraumatic growth dimensions: Relating to others (3.828), new possibilities (3.699), personal strength (3.789), spiritual change (4.00) and appreciation of life (3.611). The study recommends focus on posttraumatic growth as s strategy for management of death anxiety resulting from experience of life threatening events.




Death anxiety, Death awareness, Posttraumatic Growth, Buffer