Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Meaning Making

I’ve sat in enough support group meetings that the phrase, “everything happens for a reason” must be tattooed on my forehead.  The big part of the phrase is to make meaning of a difficult situation.  It’s too easy to take a cliche and try and apply it to our lives.  How many times have you heard, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?”  I understand the desire, the need even the ache of trying to create meaning from a terrible experience, but what if it just is.

I remember many years ago my mother read Harold Kushner’s book,  When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.  She was so disappointed because when she finished the book the answer given was…because it does.  Do we run the risk of creating a life of judgment if we begin to adhere a self-induced meaning to our tragedies or challenges?  Why do we need to make sense of the challenge instead of looking inside to discover, acknowledge, validate and explore the tools we’ve acquired over the course of our lives.  Does a toddler who gets sick need to make meaning from the experience?  It’s the parents who begin that process and maybe it goes on for years to come, but the reality is- it happened.

It’s to easy and wastes a lot of time to create explanations for the Universe.  Can I really decipher the code that explains why me and not my brother became the genetic dumping ground for our family?  I remember years ago when in college, I was meeting with my dorm director during one of our director/Resident Assistant meetings.  I confided in him that I was questioning whether or not I wanted to have children for fear of passing my auto-immune disease on to this unsuspecting life.  He responded calmly and eloquently by saying, “don’t you think you could also teach the child how you’ve learned to handle the challenge and show the child that adversity doesn’t mean detriment?”  It’s more than twenty years since he spoke those words and throughout my career have relied on those words of wisdom.

Do you need to make sense of your health challenge?  What explanations or rationales have you created since you’ve been diagnosed?  Does your meaning alleviate suffering or pain or does it simply placate the soul so you can face the challenge another day?  Do we need to have a meaning for the health challenge or can we look at the bigger picture and make meaning out of our lives and what do we need to accomplish before we leave this earth?