Finding Meaning During Challenging Times

By Michelle Sanchez, MSN, RN Apr 22, 2020

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Moral distress is a well-established concern for the health and well-being of nurses.

Moral distress is a well-established concern for the health and well-being of nurses. “Facing Moral Distress During the COVID-19 Crisis” provides an overview and resources to understand moral distress. Once you are through a traumatic event, you are in a place to reflect, understand what has happened and find the path to growth and learning.

The Connection Between Grief and Meaning

Most nurses are familiar with the work of Swiss psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who identified the five emotional stages a patient goes through when they are dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Certainly, most patients losing their lives to COVID-19 go through these stages.

David Kessler, an expert in grief, added a sixth stage to the Kubler-Ross model: finding meaning. Kessler provides many great resources on his website, including this article, which identifies what many of us are feeling right now as grief. When you can identify what you are experiencing, you can also identify the tools you need to address it.

Exploring the Meaning

Author Mira Kirshenbaum suggests everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Once we process our emotions about an event, we can begin to understand its meaning. In her book Everything Happens for a Reason, she identifies one truth we must all remember: “The good that comes out of the bad things that happen to you is to help you become your best, most authentic self.”

The meaning behind your current situation may involve many smaller events contributing to a larger event. Kirshenbaum’s research identifies 10 meanings of the events in our lives:

  • To help you feel at home in the world
  • To help you totally accept yourself
  • To show you that you can let go of fear
  • To bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness
  • To help you uncover your true hidden talent
  • To give you what you need to find true love
  • To help you become stronger
  • To help you discover the play in life
  • To show you how to live with a sense of mission
  • To help you become a truly good person

As you consider these concepts, you may relate to more than one reason. Without these struggles, we can never become the best version of ourselves. Identifying the reason can help you live a life filled with growth and intention.

What reason resonates most with your COVID-19 situation?