Viktor Frankl on the Meaning of Suffering

“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now, how could I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?” “Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering—to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

from “Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust” by Viktor E Frankl

15 thoughts on “Viktor Frankl on the Meaning of Suffering

  1. I guess it is good for me to think about that statement. I always tell my husband and others that I wish to die before him (my husband) to spare myself the misery of being without him, but I guess that is kind of selfish. I know that my husband would suffer my loss greatly. I’m not sure if it would ruin him, like I think I would be ruined without him, but it would torture him, as well. I love my husband very much and would not wish to hurt him.


  2. Hi there, I am a great fan of Frankl as well and had not remembered this passage from the book. It is a good way to handle grief in this case. The masters are so because of their quick thinking and brilliant minds!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for following! When Frankl was in a Nazi concentration camp, he came to this conclusion:

    “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.”
    ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

    Liked by 3 people

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