New Year Offers Chance at New Beginning

“Christmas Eve was the hardest.”  I am so grateful for my friends.”  “I made it through.” “Thank goodness, the holidays are over.”

These were some of the expressions I heard from my bereaved clients as we resumed our sessions after the new year began.  Some described continuing the traditions of holiday parties with friends and family. A few escaped to places as diverse as Vermont and the Caribbean. Sseveral stayed home and spent “quiet time” alone or with immediate family.

Regardless of when their loss occurred, however, the winter holidays are especially hard.  Our society creates such high expectations for happiness during this time of year.  Perhaps it’s to cheer us up in the dreary days of winter – darkness comes early, it’s frequently cold and cloudy.

The new year doesn’t necessarily change things; we’re still alone, grieving.  Yet, like the birth of a new baby, with its innocence and optimism for the future, the new year can signify a new beginning, a chance to start over, to improve ourselves and our lives.

January marks the end of the past year and the beginning of something new.  Sometimes we need to stretch our minds and hearts to be open to new possibilities.

I wish for us all the capacity to be open to hope; to be open to possibilities.  I have learned from the losses I experienced since childhood.  It is what Diogenes so simply expressed:  “Nothing endures but change.”

Susan Berger 2011

Susan Berger

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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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