Finding Meaning and Purpose in Pain, Grief, and Loss

Posted on April 09, 2021

By Dr. Eleora Han, published at December 26, 2018

It’s different for everyone, but for me, grief was like walking through the valley of a shadow of death: a place where I walked and walked with seemingly no hope — just darkness and shadows and the faintest of light.

Death, divorce, separation, and loss are among the most stressful events in life. These events cause some individuals to become more hardened and embittered, whereas others go through the same events and come out stronger, wiser — more beautiful for it.

What contributes to this difference?

The answer lies in so many things — for instance, finding support, allowing yourself to grieve and to live and move and breathe in it for a while, and working on accepting the reality of what is.

But more than anything, I think it is knowing that there is a greater purpose to your pain. It might be beyond what you can immediately understand, but one day you will know it. The work in your grief then, is to begin to uncover and to create greater meaning of from the pain and what it means for your life.

So how do you do this?

For me, prior to loss I was very caught up in thinking about the future that I was never really fully present. Loss taught me an important lesson: that life is finite —to savor time with loved ones and to be present in the moment. So to develop your own personal meaning through loss, ask yourself what the lesson in it might be. Doing this will help you deepen your understanding of yourself and guide you more fully toward the person you want to become though this experiences, and the life you want to live

Sometimes connecting with spirituality can help with finding meaning and purpose in loss. As humans, we are so much more than our mind and body, but also spirit. Spirituality is different than religion — its understanding that we are all connected to each other deeply. Its understanding that there is a larger picture at work in our lives and that it may be beyond our own understanding. It is connecting with love, gratitude, joy, peace, and hope, and that these are the very things that can sustain us and allow us to make contact with pain in a way where we are moved to become more whole.

Another way to deeply process your grief is to contribute to others who are going through loss, suffering or in pain. Is there a way you can take what you have been through and walk with others going through similar experiences? Is there a way you can take your grief and somehow use it to help others?

Two years ago I had a set of Adirondack chairs installed at a park in memory of my loss. It was placed in our favorite section of the park. I had the plaque inscribed with the following:

‘A place to savor the present moment with your loved one.’

Sometimes I go back to visit the chairs, and each time I do, I see the families and couples spending time in them and I’m reminded that something greater is at work here, that through the pain there can be joy, and somehow, through heartbreak, love again.



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