Bouncing Back from Tragedy

Boswell Books, Jewish Community Center to host Feb. 19 reading of local author’s book, Permission to Thrive: My Journey from Grief to Growth

MILWAUKEE — When Susan Angel Miller’s eldest daughter Laura was just 14 years old the unthinkable happened.

One morning the normally healthy high school freshman woke up to a blinding headache.

Three days later she was dead from a malignant brain tumor.

“We were devastated. On Tuesday afternoon Laura was at school, and three days later she was gone. It didn’t make any sense,” Miller recalls.

Left to suddenly navigate a world without Laura, the Millers, who were still raising their two younger daughters, struggled with their grief and newfound, but unwanted identities as parents of a child who had died.

Then something unexpected happened. The family not only survived, they found a way to persevere, and eventually thrive: “In spite of experiencing a parent’s worst nightmare, we were doing OK, in fact, better than OK.”

In her book Permission to Thrive: My Journey from Grief to Growth, Miller chronicles her journey from post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth, illustrating the importance of faith and community, and acknowledging the unexpected and positive consequences that can sometimes spring from great loss. The book also shares the powerful story of Laura’s life-giving act as an organ donor, and how the relationship the Millers forged with her organ recipient helped them to heal.

On Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. — roughly ten years to the date of Laura’s death — The Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center will co-sponsor a book signing for Permission to Thrive at Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave. As part of the signing, Angel Miller will share her story, including the vital role that her close relationships within Milwaukee’s Jewish community played in her recovery. All proceeds from the book’s sale will go to the Laura Miller Memorial Fund at the Milwaukee Jewish Community Foundation.

 About the author:

Susan Angel Miller is a career volunteer who has held leadership positions at the National Council of Jewish Women–Milwaukee Section, the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. She also works with other Milwaukee nonprofits such as HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), the Wisconsin Donor Network, and SODA (Student Organ Donation Advocates). She currently leads presentations on post-traumatic growth, grief and empathy building skills, and organ donation advocacy. With her family and the generosity of their community, she also raises funds to support brain cancer research and organ donation awareness.