Dr. Viktor Frankl was the first mental health professional who emphasized the term “meaning” in the context of great suffering. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz during World War II. He observed that when prisoners found no meaning in their suffering within the concentration camp, they died. Those who found meaning in their suffering lived. Dr. Frankl found meaning by looking up to the mountains when on a forced march outside the camp. He reveled in the beauty and found meaning in the fact that this is a world filled with beauty despite grave suffering. He found meaning in being determined to be reunited with his wife. When people are treated unjustly and then forgive, they often find this meaning: They now are more aware of the suffering in other people and they are motivated to help alleviate that suffering. This can give determination, energy, and hope to a person and help to re-establish psychological health.
For additional information, see Finding Meaning in Suffering.