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We Want our Suffering to Mean Something


Day 86: We want our suffering to mean something…


There is a term in the grief world called “meaning making.” It used to bug me because when I first heard it, I interpreted the phrase as an over-simplistic prescription for how people should go about their grief—I thought it meant that all grievers should find meaning in the most terrible thing that happened to them. And frankly, that sounded tortuous and impossible.


I have come to terms with “meaning making,” only because I have reframed it for myself—I see it now related to how us humans ache to have our suffering and the suffering of others mean something. We don’t want to hurt in vain.


I don’t subscribe to the belief that all suffering has meaning. I DO believe that we humans are designed to look for meaning in our suffering, and if for nothing else, we seem to do this as a survival tactic.


Meaning, in my opinion, doesn’t just already exist. In our searching, we create it.

Meaning making is a relational endeavor. Grief can catapult us into a new relationship with what we believe about the world, humanity, spirituality, friendship, and ourselves. Meaning making is a normal human response to being with suffering. And as time moves forward after loss, meaning making becomes less focused on “the why” and more to do with “how do I continue to exist in a world in which this could happen?”



Welcome to my 100-day project. I hope to provide a daily offering on something grief-related. I am a grief therapist and educator working with people in Oregon, Washington, DC, Maryland, and Maine. This feed is in honor of each person who has trusted me with their stories and wisdom during their grief journey.

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