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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Spring 2022

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COUNSELLING THE COMPENSATIONS OF GRIEF BOOK REVIEW: MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING BY VICTOR FRANKL Trigger warning/ death and grief Today I received word that a friend of mine was no longer with us, having passed away a couple of days earlier. I didn’t know him that long in the grand scheme of things, but we had some great conversations and I loved getting a wry smile from him. I was sad to know that I wouldn’t be having any more of those conversations, but a part of me was relieved for him, that there was no more pain and that he was now free. Freedom: As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Life becomes liveable only to the extent that death is treated as a friend, never as an enemy.” I have often reflected that life can be quite cruel and nature the accomplice, but I think I am changing my mind. I have had occasion recently to consider that what might appear to be cruel, may be a disguise for the kind and compassionate side of nature. The jury is still out. Learning to live life on life’s terms is the inherent challenge of life. What I have been told and have since observed is that there are ‘compensations in grief’, the number one rule being that there are no rules. End of life experiences of death, bereavement and mourning are entirely individual experiences, but there are some things that quietly carry us through these life events. Death gives us an opportunity to pause and consider mortality, that of others – and our own. It is an opportunity to review the trajectory of our life. Are we being the person we want to be, doing the things that we want to do? Are we living the best life we can? If not, why not? Grief changes your address book. People will come and go from your life. There will be those who will be lost for words, but that won’t stop their kind and loving actions. They will fill your freezer, wash your floors, hold your hand, give hugs You will know they are truly there for you. Others may be noticeable by their silence and their absence. This is okay. They just can’t do it. But you may reconsider if these are the people you want to spend your now precious time with. Compassion, patience, kindness, empathy. These qualities seem to come more readily to those who have known sadness. They have learnt to pick their battles. It doesn’t mean that they don’t get sad, angry and frustrated, but they notice, acknowledge and accept these feelings, rather than be overcome by them. They would rather be enjoying their time in quiet contemplation, or burning energy, or doing any of the things they love to do. They would rather be living their life to the best of their ability in a way that leaves no room for ‘I wish I had…’ KATHRYN BUDZINSKA MSWA COUNSELLOR Reference: Cain, S. 2022. Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole. Penguin Books Ltd. When I was asked to do a book review for the Bulletin, I thought of a quote I heard recently of Victor Frankl’s: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” With these wise words ringing in my ears, I decided to revisit Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning. Far superior minds than mine have read, written about and reviewed this book, so what follows are just some brief thoughts of my own and some quotes from the book to tempt you to read it for yourself. Victor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, and in the first part of his book he describes his own experiences of extreme hardship in Nazi concentration camps. He writes from a psychological perspective, observing his own reactions and behaviours, as well as those of other prisoners and guards. He wonders how anyone at all can survive such conditions and reflects on the sources of his strengths and will to survive. His observations and insights lead to the second part of the book and his subsequent theory known as ‘Logotherapy’ (logos is the Greek word for meaning). In Frankl’s own words he explains that Logotherapy “focuses on the meaning of human existence, as well as on man’s search for such meaning” and believes finding meaning in our lives is our primary motivation in life. There is much I find inspiring and encouraging in this book, so I will let Victor Frankl have the last word, with some of his stand-out quotes: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” “When we are no longer able to change a situation … we are challenged to change ourselves.” “I do not forget any good deed done to me, and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.” “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are the things which cannot inspire envy.” “There was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” “Decisions, not conditions, determine what a man is.” LIL O’TOOLE MSWA COUNSELLOR and listen – if you want them to. 18 19