Permission To Thrive

Resilience and personal growth aren’t just for a lucky few. Most of us can and will bounce back from adversity, in our own way, and at our own pace. After reading about my family’s loss and trauma–and the healing power of community–I hope you’ll gain faith in your own capacity to move forward when faced with your own challenges. We must give ourselves permission, in the aftermath of any trauma, to embrace the entirely normal spectrum of our responses–the grieving, the surviving, and even the thriving. 

The tragic and traumatic events experienced by my family might understandably be considered extraordinary; loss and adversity, however, touch everyone, and common threads run through most crises. I believe these threads bind us together, in our common humanity, as we each navigate our own challenges. 

I hope that my memoir will not only provide a framework for managing your own responses to life’s traumas, but will also offer practical ways for providing invaluable support to your loved ones facing loss. For us, our loss centered on finding meaning in the seemingly meaningless death of our daughter, and in keeping with that goal, we’ve shared the life-saving consequences of Laura’s organ donation, with the hope of inspiring readers to discuss their own wishes with family and consider registering to become life-saving forces as well.

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Book Reviews

A real, living example of thriving after loss and trauma. Susan Angel Miller’s intimate and reflective evaluation of her life and how the loss of her daughter and her own trauma shape her life’s meaning is a beautiful story we can all learn from.

Terri deRoon-Cassini, Ph.D.
Associate Professor/Clinical Psychologist
Medical College of Wisconsin
Surgery/Trauma & Critical Care

Susan Angel Miller has told a gripping tale of her family’s resilience in the face of tragedy that is vulnerable and honest. Anyone who has experienced loss will recognize themselves in the tumult of doubt cast by grief, from the mundane to the spiritual. You will root for this family’s survival, that is told not just through just a series of unfortunate events, but through the incredible growth that takes place after.

Kelsey Crowe
Co-author of There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love

Permission to Thrive provides a rare glimpse into the healing power of organ donation–from the perspectives of both the donor family and the recipient. This loving memoir will inspire anyone who believes in miracles and in the ability to create meaning out of tragedy.

Colleen McCarthy
Chief of Staff and Vice President of Organ & Tissue Donation
Versiti

A real, living example of thriving after loss and trauma. Susan Angel Miller’s intimate and reflective evaluation of her life and how the loss of her daughter and her own trauma shape her life’s meaning is a beautiful story we can all learn from.

Terri deRoon-Cassini, Ph.D.
Associate Professor/Clinical Psychologist
Medical College of Wisconsin
Surgery/Trauma & Critical Care

Susan has told a gripping tale of her family’s resilience in the face of tragedy that is vulnerable and honest. Anyone who has experienced loss will recognize themselves in the tumult of doubt cast by grief, from the mundane to the spiritual. You will root for this family’s survival, that is told not just through just a series of unfortunate events, but through the incredible growth that takes place after.

Kelsey Crowe
Co-author of There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love

Permission to Thrive provides a rare glimpse into the healing power of organ donation–from the perspectives of both the donor family and the recipient. This loving memoir will inspire anyone who believes in miracles and in the ability to create meaning out of tragedy.

Colleen McCarthy
Chief of Staff and Vice President of Organ & Tissue Donation
Versiti

Susan Angel Miller

After receiving an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago, I began my career as a marketing consultant to community banks. A few years later, I transitioned to full-time volunteer work and soon began holding leadership positions at various nonprofits, including the National Council of Jewish Women-Milwaukee Section, The Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and The Milwaukee Jewish Community Center. I’ve also worked with HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Parents of Preschool Youngsters). The Wisconsin Donor Network (part of the Versiti Network),  and SODA: Student Organ Donation Advocates. I’ve used my skills and experiences to assist these organizations with strategic planning, community outreach, and mentoring the next generation of leaders. 

I also give presentations on empathy, post-traumatic growth (PTG), and organ donation awareness. I use my family’s journey to frame the uplifting message of personal growth in face of life’s inevitable adversities.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SUSAN

Susan Angel Miller

After receiving an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago, I began my career as a marketing consultant to community banks. A few years later, I transitioned to full-time volunteer work and soon began holding leadership positions at various nonprofits, including the National Council of Jewish Women-Milwaukee Section, The Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and The Milwaukee Jewish Community Center. I’ve also worked with HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Parents of Preschool Youngsters). The Wisconsin Donor Network (part of the Versiti Network),  and SODA: Student Organ Donation Advocates. I’ve used my skills and experiences to assist these organizations with strategic planning, community outreach, and mentoring the next generation of leaders. 

I also give presentations on empathy, post-traumatic growth (PTG), and organ donation awareness. I use my family’s journey to frame the uplifting message of personal growth in face of life’s inevitable adversities.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SUSAN

Laura’s Gift of Life

On Wednesday morning, February 18, 2009, our previously healthy fourteen-year old daughter Laura experienced a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. My husband, Ron, and I were stunned when the emergency room doctor diagnosed her with an aggressive and cancerous brain tumor; by that evening, the increasing cerebral pressure pressed on her brain stem and caused irreversible brain damage.

Hours after being told this devastating news, we were asked to consider donating Laura’s organs. With the strong encouragement of our two younger daughters, Sara (12) and Rachel (9), we gave our consent. The life-saving impact of our decision soon became clear when we received a heartwarming thank you note from the liver recipient, a forty-year-old special education teacher; without the transplant, Trish would not have survived. Approximately two years later, we had the exceptional opportunity to meet Trish and her husband Gary and share our families’ intersecting stories.

In conjunction with the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, and with funds raised from our annual participation in Run With Wolfes- we have created this video to honor Laura’s life-saving legacy.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ORGAN DONATION