• Laura Rahel Crosby

Transforming Our Painful Experiences


When we are faced with difficult situations in life, one of the most powerful things we can do is make meaning of it. Through "Meaning-Making" we transform a painful or difficult experience into something important that has helped shape us and inform our way of being.


What is Meaning Making?

Meaning-making is when we create or find meaning in a painful experience. We can choose to find a lesson or meaningful takeaway from that experience in life which changes our way of being and who we are. For example, the loss of a loved one could make us value life more and influence us to change our priorities and realize what is most important to us in our lives. Though the loss of a loved one was painful, we were able to take away a really important lesson from it, which resulted in us changing the way we live. The meaning of the difficult experience helps us to live better, more fulling lives afterward because of what we learned through the experience.


What Meaning Making does for Us

- Allows us to have control. In difficult or painful experiences, we often feel out of control and powerless. Through meaning-making, we gain some control back. We are able to practice some control by finding the meaning in it and letting that meaning influence how we believe or act.

- Makes us better people. The lessons we learn from difficult situations help us change and shape our beliefs and our behaviors. We can choose to become better versions of ourselves because of what we learned through that experience. Those lessons help us to identify what we want in life, who we want to be, and what matters to us.

- Gives purpose. Meaning-making can help us identify a purpose to the pain and a purpose to our lives. Through meaning-making, we can identify something positive that came through a difficult experience. That tiny bit of silver-lining can be really powerful in shifting how we perceive the experience.

How to Make Meaning

Meaning Making comes in many different ways. We can look back at a painful experience and identify what we learned from it, how we can change or better ourselves from it, and how it changed us. We can take those lessons and realize they are tiny silver-linings which bring some purpose to the pain we endured in that experience. Meaning-making can also be done in the present. For example, maybe staying at home during Covid19 has taught you that career ambitions aren't the most important thing, maybe it taught you that the health and happiness of you and your family are the most important thing in life. Identifying this lesson may change the way you live and reshape your priorities. This is just one example of meaning-making.


Do you find that meaning-making has helped change the way you think of or experience difficult situations? Is it something you want to try practicing?


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