Yes to Life, In Spite of Everything

October 24, 2023

The world is full of sorrow and heartbreak. This is not new. Many of us live with grief and sadness every day. The severity of suffering may vary, but no one is immune to it. Part of my life’s work is witnessing that sadness, holding space for it…and nurturing hope. If you have been feeling particularly heartbroken lately, you are not alone.

Viktor Frankl, a world-renowned psychiatrist, speaker, and author wrote the inspiring book “Yes to Life, In Spite of Everything” after he was liberated from the Nazi concentration camps. I am grateful to Dr. Frankl for his work and his timeless words of wisdom. His book describes how to navigate difficult times and continue cultivating meaning even when all hope seems lost.

When things feel very dark and hard, I encourage people to try and stay in the present moment. Take care of your basic needs to the best of your ability. What are your usual routines? Start there. Let people know that you are struggling. Practicing mindfulness and meditation will train your brain to be in the moment. Start with 3 minutes a day. (Resources listed below)

We need each other. Connecting whether it be by phone or in person matters. The Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, stated that loneliness poses the same health risk to a person as smoking up to 15 cigarettes daily. Our health literally depends on social connections along with our sense of belonging.

Meaning and purpose nurtures our sense of hope as well. Set a goal. Adding a “why” to your goal anchors the importance for you. I am donating to xyz charity because I love ALL children. I am volunteering at the local animal shelter because I love dogs.

Shifting the focus off ourselves and onto something else is known to benefit us as well. When our hearts are heavy feeling the empowerment of creating some change, however small, can keep us from feeling completely disempowered.

We never really know the impact a kind word, a smile or even a hug will have for someone else. Kindness matters. You matter.

Some helpful resources:

Begin a meditation practice by focusing on your breath. For example… Inhale for the count of 4 through your nose (if possible) - hold for the count of 4- exhale through your mouth for the count of 6. Do this for 3-5 minutes. Notice how you feel.

Guided meditation can be very helpful as you begin your practice. Many free apps are available. Some offer subscriptions with more content. Check out Insight Timer, Smiling Mind, Calm, Headspace, etc. has resources available (free and confidential) if you or a loved one are in distress and need immediate help.

Call or text 988 for the Suicide & Crisis lifeline available 24/7.

Photo credit:

Vlad Bagacian

About the Author:

Julie Brown-Nierman is a Clinical Social Worker licensed in the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. She’s been practicing for over 10 years. Her office is located within the NH Health and Wellness Center in Nashua, NH. Julie’s therapeutic approach is individually tailored toward the strengths of her clients. Clients typically seek Julie out for grief counseling, anxiety, depression, chronic illness and/ or while facing significant life adjustments. Julie can be reached at

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