Of all the factors researchers have identified over the last 20 years or so as having some kind of effect on grief, meaning-making may be the most important, or at least the best-studied. Again and again, evidence suggests that people who uncover some kind of meaning in a loss experience less severe and prolonged symptoms of grief than those who don’t find any meaning.
For instance, a study published in 2003 looked at parents who’d lost a child to accident, suicide or homicide. The researchers assessed parents’ grief symptoms four times over a five-year period beginning four months after the loss. They also looked at whether survivors had discovered any kind of meaning in the loss. Researchers summarized: “Parents who found meaning in the deaths of their children reported significantly lower scores on mental distress, higher marital satisfaction, and better physical health than parents who were unable to find meaning.”
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