Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: The Five Ways We Grieve by Susan A. Berger

I received a few book review requests shortly after my mother passed away, and only agreed to one, because the book was relevant to what I was going through. The Berger Model is explained within "The Five Ways We Grieve" by Susan A. Berger. The subtitle reads, "Finding You Personal Path to Healing after the Loss of a Loved One." I was interested in this book because it was published by Shambhala Publications, which often puts out books encompassing Buddhist as well as other philosophies.

Most of us are familiar with the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Apparently, that model is more a description of what those who are aware they are dying go through. The Berger Model deals with five types of grieving that the survivors of loss might experience. These grief paths include those of the Nomads, the Memorialists, the Normalizers, the Activists, and the Seekers.

The book begins explaining how the loss of a loved one does not just affect us temporarily, but alters us in a way that affects us throughout the remainder of our lives. That is something I had never thought about, but it makes sense. Most traumatic events affect us permanently to varying degrees, and then when you remove someone from the room, your routine, or your life, the social dynamic changes, at the very least.

It is important to be aware of how you have been changed by the loss. That way you can use it to your advantage instead of letting it take control of you. The middle of the book discusses each of the five types in detail, and the end of the book provides you with self-exploration questions. I could see myself in all five of the grieving types, but I think I am predominately an Activist. I've been spending a lot of time communicating with others about health care and how to prepare for their own death, so that there is a minimal amount of work for their loved ones, allowing them a chance to grieve.

Examples of stories of how other have grieved are provided throughout the book, including the experiences of some who lost loved ones in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some who lost loved ones to long battles with cancer and other diseases, some who were caretakers during the slow death of Alzheimer's, and some who lost their loved ones suddenly and unexpectedly in both common and uncommon ways. For me, the most astounding cases were those who lost several loved ones within a few days, weeks or months of one another. Death is a part of life, but I am amazed that some people even have the strength to make it through multiple losses within a short period of time.

Perhaps the most insightful paragraph is in the end: "When we lose a loved one, fear is one of the strongest emotions we feel. Fear for our safety and our basic security. Fear about what will happen to us and our family. Fear of not being able to manage our responsibilities on our own. Fear of being alone."

That is so true for me, because life has dealt me more than a few blows. Our family has experienced multiple lay-offs from jobs, injuries, surgeries, and even homelessness. What comforted me throughout my life was that my parents were always there to cushion the fall and help out in anyway they could. Now that they are both gone, I worry more, because it is suddenly all up to me to keep my family safe. My backup system is no longer accessible.

You can find this book on Amazon.


Mikey said...

That last part is so true. But know that your parents prepared you oh so well to deal with what life throws at you. You are a strong woman.

Breathe said...

It seems to me this final place - to be without our parents, is the hardest.

Thinking of you,

Maery Rose said...

I kind of lost that safety net after my Mom went into a nursing home and I had to sell her home. But I'm glad someone has included in a book how a death doesn't just happen and in a few months or years the effect is over. It does change you and how you look at things.

Rising Rainbow said...

I experienced mutliple losses twice in my family growing up. One time there were two deaths within just weeks and the other there were three. I remember in my teenage mind it felt like the whole world was falling apart and the second time the trauma seemed to go up exponentially.

Being the go to person in your situation would have to up the stress level for you. I think about you often as you travel this road.