Finding Meaning in Grief

We often hear that the idea of finding meaning in loss can feel elusive and hard to fully grasp after you have lost a loved one to suicide.

David Kessler wrote a book about meaning being the sixth stage of grief, and we find his explanation of ‘meaning’ to be particularly helpful. We know how much people want to find meaning after loss, and we also know that it can be hard to do. Here are a few reminders from David Kessler’s book about what meaning can be:

  • Meaning is relative and personal. Only you can find your own meaning.
  • Meaning takes time. You may not find it until months or even years after a loss. 
  • Meaning doesn’t require understanding. It’s not necessary to understand why someone died in order to find meaning. 
  • The “why” you must answer is not why your loved one died, but why you lived. 
  • Meaning is identifying why you are here, what purpose you can bring to the rest of your life, and what significance you can find in those who are living.  
  • Even when you do find meaning, you will not feel it was worth the cost of losing your loved one. 
  • When we can find meaning, we are able to move forward in our grief and not become stuck.

Finding that meaning after loss can look very different for each person. It is deeply personal, and it’s something you define for yourself. One way to help find meaning could be through keeping a journal where you can collect and review your thoughts as you process your loved one’s life and loss. In his book, Kessler suggests some questions that can be used to help you explore meaning:

  • What have you learned from loss?
  • What have you learned to value, and how is that different from what you valued before their death? 
  • What did your loved one value?
  • What do you feel you need more of? 
  • If your loved one could see through your eyes, what would you want to show them?
  • How have you changed? How has their life changed you, and how did their love change you?
  • What do you know about life that you didn’t know before? What do you wish you knew before?
  • How could what you learned help others?  What would you like to tell others?
  • How can you bring joy to your own life? How can you bring joy to others’ lives?
  • Now knowing what you know, what can you do to keep this from happening to others?
  • How can you be inspired by the life that your loved one lived?

If you have found meaning in the loss of your loved one, we are so very happy for you. And if you are still trying to figure it out, don’t give up hope. Remember that Samaritans is always here to support you as you continue your grief journey.