Dr. Susan A. Berger is a clinical social worker, a specialist in the field of grief and loss, and the author of “The Five Ways We Grieve.” She defines five types or ways that different people respond to a major loss, as follows:
1. NOMAD: This category includes those who have not yet resolved their grief and don’t often understand how their loss has affected their lives.
2. MEMORIALIST: This category includes those who are committed to preserving the memory of their loved ones by creating concrete memorials and rituals to honor them.
3. NORMALIZER: This category includes those who are committed to re-creating a sense of family and community.
4. ACTIVIST: This category includes those who focus on helping other people who are dealing with the same disease or issues that caused their loved one’s death.
5. SEEKER: This category includes those who adopt religious, philosophical, or spiritual beliefs to create meaning in their lives
Do you see yourself fitting into one of these categories? If so, which one? Can you share how this is helping you to cope with your grief?
I’ll go first. At the inception of my grief, I don’t know if I could have categorized myself clearly as one or the other, although now I’m heavy on the activist. As I mourned, I completed activities that fell under the categories of a memorialist, normalizer, activist and a seeker.
- As a memorialist, I established the anniversary of my late husband’s death as a time when my sons and I came together and celebrated his life and the accomplishments we all made since he left. After 19 years, we continue this tradition.
- As a normalizer, I worked hard to restore the feeling of safety to the lives of my sons after the upheaval of their father’s death.
- As an activist, I began writing, speaking and coaching in the field of grief and loss. I’m a big believer in being greedy and taking all the help you need when tragedy hits … but, only with the proviso that once you’re on solid ground, you turn around and help the next person on the path you once walked. It’s my own little way of repairing the world.
- As a seeker, I certainly questioned all I knew about life and death. This set me on new paths I had yet to explore and I became immersed in the study of spirituality. I went on to co-author a book on spiritual principles with an intuitive therapist, as well as write my own books on this subject.
- The only category under which I did NOT fall was that of a nomad. I worked long and hard on resolving my grief, which enabled me to build a new life upon the foundation of the love I once knew. I honor my late husband by continuing to do what he cannot: live and love.