2008: Living Well
& Dying Well

JUly 24-27, 2008 | Toronto, Canada

The 5th Biennial International Conference on Personal Meaning was held July 24-27, 2008 at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The conference theme was “Living Well & Dying Well,” and explored the new frontiers of positive psychology, therapy, and spiritual care.

This conference addressed the existential and spiritual issues that confront individuals in their journey through life and the character strengths they need to survive and flourish in trying situations. However, one cannot begin to understand the meaning of life, until one stares at death unflinchingly. Sooner or later, everyone must come to terms with their biological destiny, but how each arrives at the point of death acceptance impacts how they live and how they die. Thus, one of the objectives of this conference was—through over 110 presentations—to illuminate the mystery of death so that the terror and denial of death will give way to enlightenment and death acceptance.

Sponsors included the University of Windsor, James Madison University, Jardine Pacific Research Inc., the Milton H. Erikson Foundation, the Meaning-Centered Counselling Institute Inc., and the individuals Mr. Ray Jung, Mr. Will Kinchlea, Dr. Michael Paré, and Mr. Joshua Wong.


Thomas Attig, Ph.D.

Irwin Barker, Comedian

Roy F. Baumeister, Ph.D.

William F. Evans, Ph.D.

Salvatore Maddi, Ph.D.

Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D.

Kirk J. Schneider, Ph.D.

Victor Shepherd, Th.D.

Ernesto Spinelli, Ph.D.

Alexander Vesely

Pamela Wallin, O.C., S.O.M.

Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D.

Invited speakers included Adam Blatner, Ph.D., Kerry W. Bowman, Ph.D., Daniel W. Brown, Ph.D., Chi Chieh-Feng, Ph.D., Victor Cicirelli, Ph.D., Chris G. Davis, Ph.D., Grafton T. Eliason, Ph.D., Kenneth Hart, Ph.D., Marnin J. Heisel, Ph.D., Mark J. Landau, Ph.D., Dmitry Leontiev, Ph.D., Dr.Sc., David Z. Levine, M.D., FRCP, Karen Liberman, Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D., Israel Orbach, Ph.D., Michael Paré, M.D., Jordan Peterson, Ph.D., Nancy Reeves, Ph.D., R.Psych., Gary T. Reker, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robinson, Ph.D., Adrian Tomer, Ph.D., and Haunn-tarng Tseng, Ph.D.


I want to commend Paul Wong, his wife Lilian, and their entire crew for a successful, well-organized, conference of the International Network on Personal Meaning this past weekend. Some of my personal highlights were Roy Baumeister’s two presentations on his new research on self-regulation, Salvador Maddi’s talk on hardiness research, and Jeff Zeig’s two presentations on resiliency, grief, and clinical work. I would highly recommend those who were not able to attend to consider it in the future.

Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D.

Education Director, VIA Institute on Character

The opportunity to hear Roy Baumeister speak was especially exciting for me, and it was a tremendously stimulating thing to interact with such a diverse interdisciplinary group, seeing connections made all the way from the specifics of individual empirical studies to philosophical and theological considerations of the meaning of life and death. The presentation of stories and family photos by Viktor Frankl’s grandson was a real treat. I want to thank Paul and Lilian (and their small army of sleep-deprived volunteers) for all their work at making this conference a success.

Charles H. Hackney, Ph.D.

Chair of Psychology Department, Briercrest College

I just wanted to say congratulations on another wonderful conference. I know this one was a unique challenge and you did a fantastic job in organizing and carrying out the conference. Thank you!

Ed Peacock, Ph.D., C.Psych.

It was enjoyable to hear so many people discuss their research at the recent Meaning Conference and have the opportunity to further converse with them. As a contributor to Dr. Hart’s symposium, it was also informative to receive feedback on my work with logotherapy as relates to college students and alcohol abuse. The meeting was productive, with numerous opportunities to exchange information.

Stefan E. Schulenberg, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, University of Mississippi

Having attended over 200 academic conferences around the world, your International Meaning Conference held in Toronto this July and August stands out as a unique academic forum. First, this is the only conference of its kind in the world, with an existential, meaning-centred focus.

Secondly, I found the level of scholarship to be outstanding. If anything, there was an embarrassment of riches. Every hour there were so many different sessions to choose from, from academic research papers to workshops by invited topics on the timely and important topic of death and dying with dignity and meaningfulness.

Third, I have never seen so many plenary presentations available at a conference; I had to get up extra early to be there for the first and second plenary speaker, and that was just the first part of each day’s program! Finally, it was great to have such a breadth of attendees, from the many students from Canada and other countries that attended, to leaders in their fields from academic settings all over the world. I have made good contacts and look forward to future dialogue with colleagues from Indonesia, Taiwan, the USA, and Australia.

Danielle R. Nahon, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa

I gained plenty of personal and professional treasures on this occasion. I shall remember your gems: “We are performers”; “It’s about building relationship” and the “5Rs.” Many thanks.

Teresa Steinfort, M.A., CCC


It is with great pleasure that I extend my warmest greetings to everyone taking part in the fifth Biennial International Meaning Conference. I would also like to welcome all the international delegates who have travelled to Toronto to take part in this meeting.

This year’s conference, “Living Well and Dying Well: The New Frontiers of Positive Psychology, Therapy, and Spiritual Care,” offers a chance to share your knowledge with one another, to obtain a broader understanding of death and dying, and to position yourselves to offer the best possible emotional care and support to patients and families facing terminal illness, end-of-life care, death, and grief. I am certain that you will all gain new perspectives and information in this area, one which is often difficult to discuss and to comprehend. I know that this will be an enriching experience for each of you.

I would like to commend the organizers of this event for their efforts in putting together and insightful program featuring presentations, workshops, and symposia which offer a wealth of expertise as well as inspirational personal stories. I would also like to offer my congratulations to Dr. Thomas Attig who is being presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his wide-ranging work related to death education and grief counselling.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish you all a pleasant and productive meeting.

The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.

Prime Minister, Government of Canada

I am pleased to extend greetings to the 5th Biennial International Meaning Conference, organized by the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM), and the Psychology Department, Tyndale University.

This year’s conference, being held in Toronto, Ontario, addresses the theme, Living Well and Dying Well: New Frontiers of Positive Psychology, Therapy, and Spiritual Care. I extend a warm welcome to the 140 presenters from more than 30 different countries who have come together from the mental health and medical fields to participate in workshops and symposia addressing issues that individuals experience throughout their life’s journey.

As The Queen’s representative in Ontario, I applaud the organizers and congratulate this year’s lifetime achievement award recipient, Dr. Thomas Attig. Please accept my very best wishes for a fruitful and enjoyable conference.

David C. Onley

Lieutenant Governor, Province of Ontario

On behalf of the Government of Ontario, I am delighted to extend warm greetings to everyone attending the Fifth Biennial International Meaning Conference.

Welcoming a diverse group of Canadian and international experts on death and dying, this biennial conference, whose theme this year is Living Well and Dying Well: The New Frontiers of Positive Psychology, Therapy, and Spiritual Care, provides participants with the ideal opportunity to further professional development, discuss current issues, and build networks.

I would like to thank the event organizers, volunteers, and generous supporters for their efforts in making this important event possible. To first-time and returning visitors to Toronto—a warm welcome to our nation’s largest city. I hope you have the time to experience some of the outstanding sites and attractions that Toronto has to offer.

Please accept my best wishes for an enjoyable and informative conference.

Dalton McGuinty

Premier, Province of Ontario

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