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New Coping Model Inspires Proactive Change For Survivors Of Lost Loved Ones

Originally Posted: April 04, 2011

Susan Berger explores the five ways we grieve. (Courtesy Photo: Berger)

Southampton - Dealing with, and healing from, the loss of a loved one is something that all people eventually experience. And when they do, a vast majority of them will most likely be advised that they will cope with it by passing through the now-famous "5 Stages of Grief," (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) first postulated by psychologists three decades ago.

However, while the "5 Stages" model works well with those who are dying, it falls far short of meeting the specific needs of the survivors of loss. So says Susan A. Berger, LICSW, EdD and the hundreds of bereaved loved ones she's encountered in her career.

Berger, founder of the Massachusetts Center for Loss, Bereavement, and Healing, says that the survivors of loss often do not understand their own unique brand of grief; they can be misunderstood and misdiagnosed by therapists as well. Thus, lacking the support they need, survivors get frustrated or even psychologically paralyzed by their loss. The problem, Berger says, is that the bereaved are not given enough tools by the Psychology Community at large to deal with their specific experience.

But now, Berger presents those tools in a new model for overcoming the grief of lost loved ones. The Berger Model is outlined succinctly in the new resource book, "The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing After the Loss of a Loved One" by Susan A. Berger. (Now out in paperback).

In The Five Ways We Grieve, Berger - who lost both of her parents at a young age - describes how she began noting the sharp differences in the way survivors behaved in the aftermath of a loved one's death. She identified useful trends among the hundreds of reactions she encountered, and after extensive interviews, discovered the successful ways survivors tended to cope. Instead of "5 Stages of Grief" through which they needed to progress (ending with Acceptance), the survivors assumed five different "identities" through which they needed to transform or be paralyzed.

Thus, the five grieving "types" emerged:

Nomads: Those who have not yet resolved their grief in a way that allows them to move on with their life and form a satisfying new identity.
Memorialists: Their main goal is to honor their loved one by creating physical objects or rituals that honor the deceased.
Normalizers: They work to recreate the kind of life they lost or wished they'd had.
Activists: They focus on helping other people who are dealing with the same disease or issues that caused their loved one's death.
Seekers: They experience loss as a catalyst for philosophical exploration into the meaning of life.

In each case, proactive solutions are easily identified and encouraged.

Recognizing the foundational fact that the survivor's worldview is forever changed - and that she can no longer be the same person she was before the loss - The Berger Model doesn't just help survivors cope, it (necessarily) helps them embrace, and even take advantage of, their life change. More than a theoretical analysis book, 'The Five Ways We Grieve' is the only guide on the shelves providing the much-needed tools for the survivors of loss to succeed in the "Life Journey After Loss."

About The Author
Susan A. Berger, LICSW, EdD, founded The Center for Loss, Bereavement, and Healing in Framingham, Massachusetts, where she has a clinical practice and offers workshops to professionals and hospices as well as general audiences. She has served as a hospice volunteer working with the dying and bereaved families. She earned her doctorate in education from Harvard University as well as a master's degree in social work and a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Boston University. She also holds a certificate in thanatology from Mt. Ida College.

For more information go to www.susanaberger.com.

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