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Monday, March 11, 2013

Finding Meaning After Grief

One of the books that I read when I was grieving is not considered a grief book but is a memoir of a Jewish pyschiatrist’s experiences in Nazi concentration camps.  “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Franklwas written in 1946, but it is just as timely today.  This book helped me in my questioning of the world and its chaos and what my place when my personal existence had been turned upside down after the death of my son.  

Frankl stated, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” I have recommended his book to many people who are also searching for meaning in their lives.  I have gone back and re-read this book over the years and each time I come away with something new and gain a better understanding of myself and the meaning that I want in my life. 

Frankl’s book is haunting in its description of what people had to endure in these camps and is a testament to the strength of the human spirit that is able to not only endure but to thrive in any environment.  Frankl saw the worst of people and the best of people.  He observed physically weak people who were able to survive in awful conditions strictly because of the will of their minds and the ability to think in a different direction.  Frankl explained it this way, “As a professor in two fields, neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware of the extent to which man is subject to biological, psychological and sociological conditions. But in addition to being a professor in two fields I am a survivor of four camps - concentration camps, that is - and as such I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions conceivable.” 

Frankl’s theory was that people need to find meaning from within themselves in order to grow and thrive.  He believed that people surround themselves with wealth and possessions as a substitute for finding this meaning and internal peace.  It seems like that is infinitely more true today as it was when he wrote about it in the 1940’s.  Unfortunately anyone who has grieved a loved one knows that “stuff” can not replace a loving relationship with another human being.

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