What is a single word (or two words) that you would use to describe a person who is trying to come out of his troubled past (like memories of loss/grieving)?

  • It's difficult to express the specificity of "troubled" in the past along with the intention of moving on. Which aspect is more important? Someone might be haunted (preoccupied, worried, troubled, plagued, obsessed, tormented), for example, but that doesn't say anything about that person striving to "come out of" (move on from) loss or grief. If you just want to say that they have had a troubled past that stays with them to this day, the word(s) above should serve. – Tyler James Young Feb 24 '14 at 19:28
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    Would it be possible to see some of the writing that would go around this missing word? – Tyler James Young Feb 24 '14 at 20:35

Let me start by saying that "troubled past" doesn't describe loss or grieving. Usually a person with a troubled past has had difficulties with the law, substance abuse, difficult childhood, or the like in his past.

I will assume that you are misusing the term troubled past and are actually referring to a person who is attempting to recover from a personal tragedy of some sort. Looking up "recovering" in a thesaurus gives several alternatives: getting over, picking up, perking up, picking up the pieces, feeling better, getting his life back together, coming along. In all these cases except getting over, you can say "He's had a personal tragedy, but he's [picking up/perking up/etc] now." With getting over, you'd have to say "he's getting over it now."

You may also say "He's recovering from a personal tragedy" or "He's getting over a personal tragedy." The others would work a bit differently: "He's getting his life back together after a personal tragedy", for example. You can use after in the same way with most of the others (you can use it with recover as well), but I wouldn't say "picking up after a personal tragedy" because it can easily be confused with the more literal sense of picking up: "picking up after a party" would mean gathering the trash. If I were going to use picking up, I would say "picking up after having had a personal tragedy". This sounds hopelessly stilted to me, so I wouldn't use it.

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    I believe OP is looking for an adjective, not a verb phrase. – Tyler James Young Feb 24 '14 at 20:16
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    You may be right. In that case, I would probably use recovering, as in "he's a recovering mourner". But only if I had to; I'd rather say one of the things I put in my answer. – BobRodes Feb 24 '14 at 20:32
  • I think your sensibilities are sound. It's difficult to know exactly what OP wants this word to express or how limiting the context might be. – Tyler James Young Feb 24 '14 at 20:36
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    @Tyler: This is a site for learners. As Bob says, probably the best of a bad bunch is recovering mourner for a single-word adjective. But that won't help a learner, since it's not an expression a native speaker would normally use (except perhaps facetiously echoing recovering alcoholic/addict). We're supposed to be helping learners acquire proficiency in real English, not helping them to make bad translations from their own languages (or whatever rationale prompted OP to specifically ask for a one or two word "adjective"). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 24 '14 at 23:18
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    @Tyler: Bob's answer seems perfectly good to me, so I've upvoted it and would urge you to do the same. I think taking things any further would simply stray deeper and deeper into inappropriate "writing advice" territory. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 24 '14 at 23:49

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