Purpose and Meaning

By Rick Bergh M.Div., CT NT | Executive Director | Voices in Motion

As a bereavement educator and counselor, I have discovered that when you remove meaning and purpose, you remove someone’s heart and passion for living fully.

As humans, we seek purpose and meaning – we die inside if it’s not part of our lives.

So much of loss is about our individual identity. It’s often linked to an internal search for purpose and meaning.

When someone dies, you often search for a new identity. “Who you are” used to include a person who was a huge part of your life. Now they’re no longer physically present and it affects many relationships: you’ve become a single person who was once married; you’re a grandchild without a grandpa; you’re a parent without a child; you’re a daughter without a father. Every relationship that person had is impacted. You’re impacted. When something important is taken away from you, it’s really hard. Life isn’t the same – it’s different now.

The dementia journey is filled with all kinds of losses. A loss could be anything that is taken away from you which was important in your life and contributed towards your identity as a person.

During these transitional times, we ask questions – maybe not audibly, but we ask identity questions:

  • Who am I, now that things are different?
  • Has my purpose changed?
  • Where do I find meaning in new things, if I can’t find it in the old things that used to be?

If you are experiencing multiple losses, as in the case of a dementia journey, you likely don’t even have the time to sit and reflect. You are just managing to get through the day and prepare yourself for the next change that may be coming your way.

In the three years since I began singing in the choir, I have seen changes in some of our lovely choristers. Life has become different for them and their family members as well.

If I have to miss a rehearsal for some reason, I can feel that there is something missing in my own life that would normally bring me joy and happiness that week. Those with memory loss and their family members, continue to touch my life and deepen my experience as a human being. Ain’t no sunshine when I’m gone – at least not in MY life that week. In an interestingly connected way, each person at ViM helps me to look at my own sense of personhood and reminds me what brings meaning to my life. I personally can’t live without y’all in my week.