What can funeral professionals learn from the horrific history of World War II, specifically from Viktor Frankl — a unique figure from this time? In 1942, Frankl, his wife and much of his family were taken from Vienna and forced to live in a series of Nazi concentration camps. Over the next three years, Frankl would be separated from his family and live in four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. His wife, brother, father and mother all died at the camps.
Being a Holocaust camp survivor is notable, but Frankl was also distinctive in another way. As a psychiatrist, he viewed his survival story through a different lens. Remarkably, Frankl came out the other side of this horrendous ordeal with a life-affirming philosophy that has much to teach us today. His famous book Man’s Search for Meaning is Frankl’s description of how he survived with hope despite being surrounded by loss and tragedy.
Here are five specific lessons from his book that we can use in our daily lives as we strive to find meaning and purpose in the midst of grief and loss:
Lesson 1: The Quest for Meaning
In his book, Frankl explores the existential question of how to find meaning in life. For funeral professionals, who witness the impact of loss and navigate the delicate journey of grief with families, this book provides a powerful framework for understanding the human search for purpose and significance. It will challenge you to reflect on the deeper meaning of your work and how it contributes to the well-being and healing of those you serve.
Lesson 2: Discovering Purpose in the Midst of Loss
As funeral professionals, we have a unique opportunity to guide families through the grieving process and help them find solace amidst sorrow. Man's Search for Meaning invites introspection into our role as a companion on this profound journey. Through Frankl's insights, we can explore ways to empower families to discover their own meaning and purpose in the midst of loss. By assisting them in honoring and remembering their loved ones in a way that aligns with their values, we can facilitate a path toward healing and resilience.
Lesson 3: Embracing Attitude and Choice
Frankl emphasizes the importance of attitude and personal choice in shaping our responses to life's challenges. As funeral professionals, we face emotional and logistical hurdles, but we also possess the power to choose how we approach and navigate them. Reflect on the attitudes and perspectives you bring to your work and explore how aligning them with the principles outlined in the book can enhance your ability to provide compassionate and meaningful support.
Lesson 4: Building Empathy and Compassion
Through Frankl's experiences, we gain profound insights into the resilience of the human spirit. Based on his descriptions, we can develop a deeper understanding of the pain and suffering individuals experience during times of loss. Man's Search for Meaning fosters empathy and compassion, enabling funeral professionals to approach families with greater sensitivity, respect and genuine care. It encourages professionals to go beyond their duties and truly connect with the individuals they serve.
Lesson 5: Gratitude and Appreciation
Frankl's book teaches us the power of gratitude even in the face of adversity. By acknowledging and appreciating the moments of beauty and goodness that exist amidst sorrow, funeral professionals can inspire hope and healing within themselves and the families they assist. Embracing gratitude and cultivating a sense of appreciation for life's blessings can provide solace and strength during challenging times, allowing professionals to serve with renewed compassion and purpose.
Man's Search for Meaning serves as a powerful reminder that, even in the darkest of times, human beings possess an indomitable spirit and an innate desire to find meaning. For funeral professionals, this book serves as a guide, reminding us of the profound impact we have on the lives of those we serve. By integrating the book's teachings into your professional practice, you can foster healing, resilience and a deeper understanding of the human experience.