Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


The Five Ways We Grieve: A New Perspective

posted by Beyond Blue

Back in the mid-twentieth century, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—and they stuck. Heck, I just wrote about them last month. According to Susan Berger, researcher and practitioner in the health and mental health fields for over twenty-five years, those five stages may work well for the dying individuals. But for the folks who are left behind to grieve the loss? Not as successful. In her groundbreaking book, “The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing after the Loss of a Loved One,” Berger offers five identity types that represent different ways of creating meaning from the loss of a loved one in an effort to redefine a life purpose, a reason to continue growing spiritually and emotionally, and to find meaning in this life.

  1. Nomads are characterized by a range of emotions, including denial, anger, and confusion about what to do with their lives. Nomads have not yet resolved their grief. They don’t often understand how their loss has affected their lives.
  2. Memorialists are committed to preserving the memory of their loved ones by creating concrete memorials and rituals to honor them. These range from buildings, art, gardens, poems, and songs to foundations in their loved one’s name.
  3. Normalizers place primary emphasis on their family, friends, and community. They are committed to creating or re-creating them because of their sense of having lost family, friends, and community, as well as the lifestyle that accompanies them, when their loved one died.
  4. Activists create meaning from their loss by contributing to the quality of life of others through activities or careers that give them a purpose in life. Their main focus is on education and on helping other people who are dealing with the issues that caused their loved one’s death, such as violence, a terminal or sudden illness, or social problems.
  5. Seekers look outward to the universe and ask existential questions about their relationship to others and the world. They tend to adopt religious, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs to create meaning in their lives and provide a sense of belonging that they either never h ad or lost when their loved one died.


Unlike many authors of grief books, Berger has grappled with grief her entire life. She lost her father when she was just eleven years old. Her mother died nine days short of her (mother’s) fiftieth birthday. She has also interviewed hundreds of people on how they have been able to move on after the death of a loved one.

Throughout her book is the overriding theme that grief can be a doorway to hope. Toward the end of her first chapter, Berger shares a poignant quote found in bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Prodigal Summer,” by a young scientist, Luca, who was able to manage the family farm and perform her other responsibilities after being suddenly widowed. It’s lovely, I think, this quote, and speaks to how all survivors can be transformed in their grief:

I was mad at him for dying and leaving me here, at first. Pissed off like you wouldn’t believe. But now I’m starting to think he wasn’t supposed to be my whole life, he was just this DOORWAY to me. I am so grateful to him for that.

Berger’s description of her own healing journey is touching as well:

My journey of understanding, like that of the Jews in the desert, has taken forty years. I now understand what a far-ranging impact the deaths of my father and, seventeen years later, my mother have had on me ad my family. I have spent much of my life asking questions about why this happened, what effect their deaths had on me and my family, and what contributions I could make to those who have had similar experiences. I have learned lessons about life and death, and these lessons have guided me—for better and worse—throughout my life. They have changed the way I see myself, the world, and my place in it. I am certain that the deaths of my father and mother served as catalysts that guided me toward a particular path in my life, influenced who I have become, the choices I have made, and the ways I have lived my life. As a result, I believe I am wiser, more life-affirming, and more courageous human being than I might otherwise have been.

Her book is an invaluable resource for those struggling with grief or for anyone who just wants to better understand the process of grieving. And I think her writing and insights can be translated to living with chronic illness, as well, because, in some ways, that is also grief: learning to live within the limitations of our health situations.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Anne Thompson

    T,

    The important thing for us to remember us grief is not always about death. When we loose someone we love we go through the same stages and feelings. I know having lost contact with my 15 yr old daughter who was taken away from me by her paternal grandmother. Having lost my 29 yr old son to alcohol and drugs that these things are just as severe as a death. Anyway, thanks for the post….Keep doing what u are doing my friend. You are so wise and have so much to give.

    Mary Anne

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment CHRISTINE BOWERS

    I AGREE WITH MARY ANN ABOUT LOSING A LOVE, BUT NOT BY DEATH. WHEN MY “FAIRY TALE” SECOND MARRIAGE ENDED AFTER 16 YEARS, I WAS ALMOST TOO UPSET TO HANDLE IT, BUT MY HUSBAND HAD BECOME A PHYSICAL ABUSER IN ONE FIT OF TEMPER, AND BEING IN MY LATE 50′S, I KNEW I COULD NOT EVER LET HIM HIT ME AGAIN! I GOT A LIFETIME INJUNCTION AGAINST HIM, ATTENDED SPOUSE ABUSE WHERE I BECAME TOO MUCH OF A LEGAL ADVISOR, AND MOVED ON TO DIVORCE RECOVERY THAT TRULY HELPED ME, AND I SURVIVED IT ALL. THE MARRIAGE ENDED IN 1996. HE THEN BANKRUPTED OUR “COMPANY” AND I HAD TO GO TO WORK, AT AGE 58. WHAT A JOLT!!
    LIFE WAS GOING FAIRLY WELL FOR ME UNTIL AUGUST OF 2003 WHEN MY ONLY SON-IN-LAW DIED AT AGE 47 FROM A HEART ATTACK, LEAVING MY ONLY DAUGHTER WITH 2 YOUNG GIRLS TO RAISE, BUT AGAIN, I SURVIVED. SHE REMARRIED IN 2008 TO A TRUE LOVE AND SOUL-MATE WHO HAS 3 OLDER CHILDREN JUST AS SHE DOES. NEXT, MY SWEETHEART OF 7 YEARS DIED OF CANCER IN NOV 2004 AFTER A 13 MONTH BATTLE. KNOWING THAT HE WAS IN A BETTER PLACE HELPED ME HEAL PLUS THE FACT THAT HE WAS NEARLY 72. THE NEXT LOSS CAME ONLY 5 MONTHS AND 2 DAYS LATER WHEN MY ONLY SON DIED VERY UNEXPECTEDLY AT AGE 47 FROM A MASSIVE HEART ATTACK, JUST LIKE MY DECEASED SON-IN=LAW. TO SAY I WAS “SHOCKED” IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. BUT, TO EVERYONE’S SURPRISE, I NOT ONLY SURVIVED THIS GREATEST LOSS OF ALL, BUT I HAVE BEEN HELPING OTHER MOTHERS WITH THEIR GRIEF. I CAN TALK ABOUT MY BELOVED SON AND NOT CRY, MAINLY BECAUSE WE WERE SO VERY CLOSE, AND HE WOULD BE SO UPSET WITH ME IF I GRIEVED THE REST OF MY LIFE. HE IS WITH ME EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE, AND THAT PART OF MY HEART HOLDS HIM AND MY WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF HIM VERY CLOSE. HE WAS ALSO AN ORGAN DONOR AND LIVES ON IN OTHERS. I CAN STILL JOKE AND LAUGH WITH PEOPLE, BUT I HAPPEN TO BE A VERY STRONG OLDER LADY OF 74 NOW. FRIENDS KNOW THEY CAN TALK TO ME ABOUT THE LOSS OF A MOTHER, FATHER, CHILD, FRIEND, ETC. I AM FULL OF COMPASSION AND SO WAS MY SON. I WILL ALWAYS MISS HIM, BUT AGAIN, I THINK OF HIM AS BEING IN HEAVEN WITH ALL OF HIS GRANDPARENTS, OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS, AND HIS GOOD FRIENDS THAT DIED BEFORE HE DID. WE MUST KEEP FAITH AND HOPE ALIVE IN ORDER TO SURVIVE! KEEP YOUR LOVED ONES ALIVE WITH GOOD MEMORIES AND YOUR PAIN WILL EASE – IN TIME – AS I HAVE LEARNED. CRY
    WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE IT FROM YOUR SORROW AND LOSS, BUT REMEMBER, YOU HAVE AN ANGEL WATCHING OVER YOU, AND HOPEFULLY YOU BELIEVE IN ANGELS.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment CHRISTINE BOWERS

    THANK YOU FOR READING MY POST ON HERE, AND I HOPE AND PRAY I HAVE HELPED JUST ONE PERSON WITH MY REMARKS. MOST SINCERELY, MICKEY

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate measures to control a mood disorder, that faithfulness

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from the drama queen at the water cooler). Why? Because we

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a third, stuff her full of refined sugar and processed f

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer is difficult? What if, instead, everything looks dark,

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.