A Search for Meaning

The sorrow and pain suffered after the loss of a loved one plunges us first into despair, but as we, with time, begin to emerge from that state, it causes us to look deeply into our innermost feelings, thoughts and beliefs. We search for the meaning of life and of death. We are accustomed to looking for and to finding reasons or at least explanations for events in our life, but we look in vain for a reason for our loss. Something here surpasses our understanding and leaves us feeling empty.

It has been said that faith begins where reason ends and faith in God, a supreme being, or a higher power can indeed offer great comfort as we work through our grief. For those who have such faith as well as for those who do not, however, there comes a time when the search for reasons must be relinquished, as we realize that our love for the lost one will endure and that we need now to live our own lives in a way that incorporates into our awareness that which grief has taught us.

Eventually during the period of mourning, there comes a moment when the reality of the death, which our mind knows has occurred but which we have resisted admitting into our total awareness, seems to descend from our head into the very core of our being. When this happens, we may experience renewed intense pangs of longing and sadness. But this is a necessary step on the way to acceptance, for now we know, truly know, that the death is final and can begin to find ways to work with this fact. For many people, this is the time of emergence from confusion and the beginning of the reordering of their system of beliefs, no longer to find reasons but as a basis for the continuation of their own life.

The inner search to come to grips with reality can be a time of great personal growth: a reaffirmation of life, in general, and a restructuring of the life we are now called upon to live; a reevaluation of relationships; an awakening of a new sensitivity to others; a new openness along with a new vulnerability; the wish to make each moment count or to share more freely with others. The experience of mourning may strengthen our faith and our resolve; it may allow us to see and appreciate for the first time the strength or our own inner resources. From this shattering experience can emerge an enriched understanding of the significance of life and a willingness to participate again in life and to accept its sorrows as well as its joys.