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How to Find Meaning and Purpose After Trauma

Crystal Fuller

Kay Wilson was brutally attacked by a Palestinian terrorist while she working as a tour guide in Jerusalem. She saw her friend murdered while she herself was left barely alive. Eventually, her physical wounds healed, and she started to mend from the emotional shock of this event. Kay decided she needed a purpose to continue her healing path. That purpose became publicly speaking to dispel hatred, towards Arabs or Jews.

Your traumatic experience may be similar to Kay’s or nothing like it. What you do know is that your experience has left you down and broken. You find yourself annoyed when someone tells you things will get better. You also hate that light at the end of the tunnel everyone talks about because you feel like you may never see it. These are normal thoughts and feelings for someone suffering through trauma.

But I am here to tell you that light is there, and it is obtainable. Your first steps are to take care of yourself by eating healthy, exercising, getting enough rest, building positive relationships, and seeking professional help.

Dr. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. He conducted research with other concentration camp survivors to discover how they found meaning. He concluded with three ways they had been able to overcome their trauma. They were:

  1. Purposeful work

  2. Love, connection, and relationships

  3. Finding strength in the face of adversity

When someone experiences something traumatic they are never the same, I am not meaning in a bad way. At first, it will be a struggle, but as they take the proper steps to heal, they look at life through new lenses. Menial things tend to not be so trivial. They are able to focus on what is truly important to them. Like Dr. Frankl says they seem to find strength in their adversity.

Three questions you can ask yourself on your discovery path are:

  1. What strength have I gained from my experience?

  2. What is most important to me now after my traumatic event?

  3. What can I do to help prevent what happened to me from happening to others?

These questions will give you a place to start. As you discover the answers you might find a cause you are partial to and volunteer with that organization. You may decide to make a lifestyle change such as quitting an unhealthy habit. You may decide to change your future goals and plans.

The key is to find a cause, plan, or goal that you are now passionate about and go after it. As you let your traumatic experience drive your purpose, you will find strength and will no longer let it overtake you.


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