I’d like to introduce myself to you

Susan Angel Miller

When I moved, with my husband Ron to Milwaukee in 1993—at the age of 28—I looked forward to starting a family, becoming involved in the community, and leading an uneventful yet meaningful life. And that’s how the following fourteen years unfolded. We were blessed with raising three daughters: Laura, Sara, and Rachel in Milwaukee’s close-knit community. To spend more time with the girls, I soon transitioned from my consulting work with banks to take on leadership roles in local nonprofit organizations. Life was busy but good.

One school day morning In February of 2009, when Laura was a high school freshman, and after she had been complaining for several weeks of increasingly painful headaches, we rushed her to the hospital. She had suffered a seizure. Within twelve hours of being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Laura stopped breathing; three days later, the doctors declared her brain dead. Our worst nightmare—every parent’s worst nightmare—had come true.

Over the next few years, we grieved, we struggled, we accepted our community’s help, we confronted our pain and despair, and yet we still continued to parent Sara and Rachel and live our lives as best we could. What was our choice? We refused to sacrifice the girls’ future, or ours, to an event that couldn’t be undone.

Three years later, we were again blindsided when I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and underwent emergency surgery. During my better-than-expected and surprisingly enlightening recovery, I discovered the positive psychology concept of post-traumatic growth (PTG). Our experience of surviving and thriving was more common, more attainable than we would have thought; no longer did we feel so alone in surviving and even thriving, and consequently I allowed myself to release the guilt I’d been unnecessarily harboring —at my continuing to live a productive life even having lost our precious daughter. I gave myself permission to thrive.

I hope this website, speaking opportunities, and my upcoming book will provide inspiration and resources to help you and others navigate society’s ambiguous expectations—and your own—in the aftermath of loss or trauma. My upcoming book, Permission to Thrive: A Journey from Grief to Growth describes my family’s tumultuous, incomprehensible journey and how I reclaimed the life I still love.

Susan Angel Miller is a career volunteer who has held leadership positions at the National Council of Jewish Women–Milwaukee Section, The Jewish Community Center, and The Milwaukee Jewish Federation. She works with other Milwaukee-area nonprofits such as Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, The Wisconsin Donor Network (part of The Versiti Network), and Student Advocates for Organ Donation. Susan participates in an annual memorial walk in honor of her daughter Laura and raises contributions for the Laura Miller Fund as the Jewish Community Foundation. She also leads presentations on post-traumatic growth, personal relationship building, and organ donor advocacy.

Susan received her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Michigan and her MBA from Loyola University in Chicago. She began her career as a marketing consultant to community banks before devoting her skills full-time to nonprofit strategic planning, community outreach, and mentoring projects.

She is married to her exceptionally supportive and resilient husband Ron; they are the proud parents of Sara, Rachel, and their forever-beloved Laura.