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How Do We Find Meaning After Loss? A Meaningful TED Talk

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Most of us are familiar with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, it’s important to remember grief isn’t linear—it’s a deeply personal experience.

While you may experience all or some of the stages, they’re often out of order and for some folks, the final phase of acceptance isn’t enough. Through his decades of extensive research and his own experience with loss, grief specialist and bereaved parent David Kessler has sought a sixth stage of grief: meaning.

In a special edition of a TED Interview series about dealing with difficult feelings, Kessler shares useful wisdom and methods for anyone looking to honor a loved one's memory and move through life after loss.

Below, we highlight top quotes from the TED Interview to help you find meaning throughout your grief journey so you can move forward with your life in the days, weeks and months that follow a loss.

“There’s no one right way to do grief.”

Everyone’s journey with grief is a highly individual experience—there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. How you cope with loss depends on many factors, including your personality, life experience, faith and how significant the loss was to you.

Kessler poses a great question when someone asks him, "How long is [my wife, my husband, my best friend] going to grieve?" He always responds, "How long is the person going to be dead?”

Although the answer is forever, that doesn't mean you will always grieve with pain. Hopefully in time you can grieve with more love than pain. For some, this happens within weeks or months. For others, the journey toward grieving with love is measured in years.

“We don't get over loss. We don't recover from loss. Our loved one was not a cold or a flu. We learn to live with it.”

Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

“Meaning takes time.”

Out of the now six stages of grief, meaning is likely the one that will take the most time. Some may not find it until months or even years after loss—you can't rush the meaning.

“The goal isn't to make our grief smaller. The goal is for us to become bigger, to grow around this grief.” When you find yourself in the meaning phase of grief, ask yourself the following:

  • How can we honor the person who we lost?
  • How can we make a life and a world that's more meaningful?
  • How can we shape someone's legacy?

As you ponder these questions, keep in mind that as long as you’re talking about your loved one who is no longer physically with you, they’ll never be gone from our hearts.

“Everyone gets to have their own unique grief.”

Grief is as unique as a finger print—we all get to have our own experience. It’s important to recognize all losses live in the world together and are not to be compared.

Comparing grief is as unreasonable as comparing measurable facts like height and weight. Grief isn’t objective or quantifiable. Someone doesn’t just go through specific amounts of suffering—it all depends on the type of loss they experience.

 “We don’t have a broken head, we have a broken heart,” Kessler said. “Everyone gets to have their own unique grief.”

Those grieving typically have one thing in common: They’ve experienced loss. Beyond that, everyone’s experience will vary greatly because grief is a subjective experience influenced by several factors.

Weekly Grief Support

In the days, weeks and months following a loss, it’s important to remember the grieving process has no set timeline. To help guide you through your grief journey, we encourage you to sign up for our weekly newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing. When you subscribe, you’ll receive weekly emails of encouragement across an entire year of your grief experience.

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Robert Solich
Robert Solich
Thirty years of experience helping people on the hardest day of their lives, and one of Busch's longest-standing staff members. Bob provides valuable guidance to families with his expertise and compassion. He serves on two non-profit boards in the greater Cleveland area, promoting healthcare and the arts. Proudly serving Busch families since 1983.
 

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