International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

The Narrative Arc of Tragic Loss: Grief and the Reconstruction of Meaning

Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D

University of Memphis


In the face of a tragic transition associated with significant loss, our normally implicit ability to make sense of life experiences can be profoundly challenged, precipitating a painfully explicit search for meaning. Here I summarize our long and multifaceted research program on this process, organizing findings into those that bear on the narrative arc of meaning reconstruction in bereavement, beginning with shattering of the survivor’s life story, through its restorative retelling, reconstruction and integration. In doing so, I underscore the spiritual as well as secular struggles in meaning-making, the role of sense making and benefit finding in predicting more hopeful outcomes in bereavement, and the prospects for loss to usher in eventual gain in the form of posttraumatic growth.

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