This is an excerpt from The Five Ways We Grieve, by Susan Berger, available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon:


Although I have been an orphan for more than half of my life, only in the past five years have I reached another level of understanding about how the deaths of my parents affected me. This revelation has given me some sense of peace.  And, while most people would assume I have “gotten over” my losses, I know that if being bereaved is being deprived of our loved ones, I remain in a state of bereavement.

I still remember the dates of my parents’ deaths, birthdays, and wedding anniversary as vividly as I do my daughter’s birthday. On those days, I still feel a twinge of sadness about how their absence deprived me of role models for managing my life, support during hard times, and the joys of sharing the happiness of our mutual achievements.

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, 17 years later, my mother have had on me and 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 a wiser, more life-affirming and more courageous human being than I might otherwise have been.

Susan Berger

Susan A. Berger, LICSW, Ed.D. has extensive experience counseling individuals confronting the death of loved ones and other life changes. Drawing on research results and anecdotes gathered from the bereaved over the past ten years, Berger examined how a person’s worldview is affected by major loss. She wrote her book, The Five Ways We Grieve, finding your path to healing after the loss of a loved one, (Trumpeter Books, 2009) to assist professionals, and survivors and the general public understand the lifelong impact of loss on the bereaved. She founded The Center for Loss, Bereavement, and Healing in Framingham, MA, a clinical practice, helping individuals, couples and families cope with life stresses. She also provides workshops on her unique approach to lifelong grieving to professionals, such as physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses and hospices, as well as presentations to community groups. She has published articles in professional and trade publications, as well as many media, including The Washington Post on mental health, substance abuse, health and human resources topics. She has also been cited nationally in numerous print and broadcast media, and has spoken at many conferences and workshops throughout the country. Previous experience includes academic appointments at Emmanuel College, Northeastern University, Merrimack College, and MassBay Community College. Dr. Berger earned her Doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as a Master’s degree in Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Boston University. To enhance her expertise in the area of loss and bereavement, she earned a Certificate in Thanatology (Death, Dying & Bereavement) from the National Center for Death Education at Mt. Ida College in Newton, MA. Dr. Berger has volunteered as a hospice volunteer working with the dying and bereaved families. She is herself the survivor of early parental loss.

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