Send to

Choose Destination
Death Stud. 2000 Sep;24(6):497-540.

Searching for meaning in loss: are clinical assumptions correct.

Author information

St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS, Canada.


Three assumptions guiding research and clinical intervention strategies for people coping with sudden, traumatic loss are that (a) people confronting such losses inevitably search for meaning, (b) over time most are able to find meaning and put the issue aside, and (c) finding meaning is critical for adjustment or healing. We review existing empirical research that addresses these assumptions and present evidence from a study of 124 parents coping with the death of their infant and a study of 93 adults coping with the loss of their spouse or child to a motor vehicle accident. Results of these studies indicate that (a) a significant subset of individuals do not search for meaning and yet appear relatively well-adjusted to their loss; (b) less than half of the respondents in each of these samples report finding any meaning in their loss, even more than a year after the event; and (c) those who find meaning, although better adjusted than those who search but are unable to find meaning, do not put the issue of meaning aside and move on. Rather, they continue to pursue the issue of meaning as fervently as those who search but do not find meaning. Implications for both research and clinical intervention are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center