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.