Click Here To Purchase The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing after the Loss of a Loved One

Author: Susan A. Berger
Publisher: Trumpeter Books – Shambhala imprint
ISBN: 978-1-59030-899-8

Grief comes to us all, one way or another.  Just as we cannot avoid death, we cannot avoid grief.  But, while grief is a fact of life and a normal emotional reaction, it does not need to become a way of life. Author Susan Berger looks at the grief that follows the loss of a loved one through death by using clinical examples, personal experiences, penetrating questions that offer hope of healing.

Berger’s premise is that each person who has suffered loss can transform their experience into an opportunity for growth but that in order to do so, they must come to terms with their grief, rebuild their life, and find a new identity which Berger describes as a process that begins after a person has died and continues throughout one’s lifetime.  She offers five identity types, noting their weaknesses and strengths, to explain the process towards healing.

Four of the identity types (Memorialists, Normalizers, Activists and Seekers) have resolved their grief and begun their particular path of healing in their own way. Memorialists are committed to preserving the memory of their loved one by creating concrete memorials and rituals to honour them.  Normalizers are committed to re-creating a sense of family and community. Activists focus on helping others who are dealing with the same disease or issue that caused their loved one’s death and Seekers adopt spiritual/philosophical/religious beliefs to create meaning in
their lives.

According to the author’s thesis, the identity type she calls Nomads, have not yet resolved their grief in a way that allows them to move on with life and form a satisfying new identity.  Because of this, they don’t understand how their loss has affected their lives and are unable to make appropriate choices for their lives.  Referring to author William Bridges who poignantly writes about “transitions” in one’s life, Berger notes that Nomads are “lost in transition”. They are unable to move beyond the void and unable to do the work that is necessary to transition to one of the other identity types.

Writing from both a personal and professional perspective (over a decade of working with the bereaved), the author examines how a person’s worldview is affected after a major loss in their lives i.e. as the external world becomes changed by the death of a loved one, so too is the inner world changed.  How one handles the change that has resulted because of the loss of a loved one determines healing in a particular way in one of the identity types.

Because loss and grief come in many guises - loss of a person, job, material possession, part of one’s anatomy - and is not only encountered when a loved one dies, but can happen in a divorce, at retirement, in the firing/laying off from employment, after natural disaster or accident, in chronic illness or in the aging process that results in the loss of a function e.g. ability to hear, see, walk, talk, breathe, function, I wish the author and publisher had not added the words “after the loss of a loved one” in the sub-title and simply stated “Finding Your Personal Path to Healing After Loss.”

Grief and death are never “easy” subjects, but Berger gently unfolds the complex subjects and offers a roadmap not only for personal healing but for walking beside others who are experiencing loss in their lives. This sensitively-written gem of a book is a welcome addition to anyone encountering loss in their lives and in particular, professionals (counselors, therapists, thanatologists, Hospice workers, chaplains, clergy) will especially find insight and rich “food for thought” in this book for work with their clients and parishioners. 

Click Here To Purchase The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing after the Loss of a Loved One