Finding Meaning in Life’s Journey

Having just concluded marking SPD’s golden jubilee, our celebratory mood continued with the SG50 fever!

Vania Teo is a case management officer with SPD’s Community and Social Service Department. She shares with us her reflections gathered in the course of her work on the meaning of life after acquiring a disability.

When faced with difficulties in life, one of the most prevalent questions asked would be “What is the meaning of these sufferings?”, or even “Why me?”. I have come across many people who have acquired disabilities from medical conditions or accidents who would ask the same questions. The question of life’s meaning would frequently resurface as I journey with each of them as we work towards re-building resilience.

I would not respond to this question even when I’m pressed for an answer as I strongly believe that the answer lies within those who ask. As a case management officer, I build rapport with my clients and, in the process of doing so, I get a glimpse into their lives – their family structure, the make-up of their extended support network, their spirituality etc. I would like to term these as ‘life lines of hope’ because they are a source of strength that can be tapped on when facing life’s obstacles.

An elderly client who was estranged from her family and living alone is a case in point. The elderly woman once shared that she found no meaning in life. When I asked her what kept her going, she thought for some time and then replied that despite having not much family support, she wanted to re-live her life once again with the time she had left. She believed that God must have had a reason for letting her undergo the challenges she faced, and wanted to prove to herself that she could live life to the fullest in spite of her disability.

Her explanation led me to think about the words of Dr Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and a prominent figure in the counselling profession, who once said: “If there must be meaning in life at all, there must be a meaning in suffering” and that when “we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.

This wisdom is applicable beyond my work with clients and caregivers to other individuals. When we are faced with a sense of meaninglessness, never fail to remember that there is always a meaning and a reason for why we do what we do