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The Five Ways We Grieve

Finding Your Personal Path to Healing

From the time I was small, death has surrounded me. when I was three we had to go to my Grandfather’s Aunt Mel’s funeral. It was a very long drive for an active me and I remember asking why we couldn’t just flush down the toilet like we did my goldfish. To be honest, I don’t remember Aunt Mel. When I was maybe ten I remember being at my grandparents and learning that a distant cousin had died. I think I paused to think about this, but I quickly moved on. In ninth grade I experienced the death of a peer. It struck me more than the death’s previous. It was a death that had a real impact. His desk was empty. The hallways buzzed with the news and there was a sense of mourning.

When I was thirteen my grandpa died. He had cancer, a word I wasn’t well-acquainted with but seemed to be a big deal. My life changed that year. My mom was incredibly sick from a surgery gone awry and we had moved 3,000 miles from the place I had forever called home. My grandpa was a person I have no doubt loved every minute of his life. He was outdoorsy and looked very much like the Marlboro Man with his rugged good looks, sun-weathered skin. He was an impeccable dresser.

As the cancer took hold of him, he’d promise to take us to the pasture to ride horses, then, with the sun in full shine and no clouds in sight, tell us we weren’t going because it looked like rain. We thought he was crazy–turns out he was just in a lot of pain. When Grandpa finally took his last breath, we were far away. It took three and a half years for that beast to take him and we had plenty of time to say good-bye.

Six weeks after I graduated high school and left Utah to be a nanny in Miami, Florida, my dad called me. His mother, whom I was very close to, had been in a car accident with my grandpa. Grandpa was fine, but Grandma was not expected to make it. My heart ached. I had left in the heat of a fight and being young and foolish let pride prevent me from moving on. Instead I held my grudge towards her. I tossed her mail to the side and refused to be the one who said, “I’m sorry.”

Pride cost me. I never had the chance to tell my grandma I loved her. I never had the opportunity to say I’m sorry. I never had the chance to adore her as I would have had I known.

In 2007, on Christmas Eve, my phone rang in the very early morning hours. My mother was calling to tell me my aunt had passed away. I was angry. My first thoughts were, “Really? You had to ruin Christmas!” Drugs had taken her long before she fell into an endless slumber. As a child, she had been my most favorite aunt. She was ten years older than me and we had many good times. I was angry at her for dying and thankful that it was all over for us all. I felt ashamed that I felt this way. I cried as I remembered the person she once had been, the person who son had never known.

Death surrounds us and I read The Five Ways We Grieve: Finding Your Personal Path to Healing after the Loss of a Loved One, by Susan a. Berger, I found comfort that my experiences were not unique. That I was handling death in a healthy way.

Initially, when I read the title, I smirked because I imagined folks grieve in a variety of ways, not just five. Berger pulls it off by focusing on five specific ways: Nomads, Memorialists, Normalizers, Activists, and Seekers. I saw myself in each of these ways, depending on who had died and my relationship with them.

I understood after reading The Five Ways We Grieve that it isn’t so much about the grieving but how we choose to find healing. It’s how we allow that death into our life. This book is so much more than being sad, or as I was with my aunt, angry. It goes beyond acceptance. It’s about finding balance and allowing the cadence of life to be the priority.

For the most part, I reflect that of a Normalizer. Everyone will die. Family is important to me. When an accident took my grandma, I became a Memorializer. I wanted to keep everything about her alive. I wanted her to live on in cards she had written, books she had given me, moments we had treasured together.

When Moni died of breast cancer, a battle I had believed she had won. I became an Activist. I wanted to march in the march to cure breast cancer. I wanted to connect with others that had experienced the same loss. I wanted to make Moni proud and let her see that she was not forgotten.

I have witnessed my grandmother be the Seeker when her daughter was taken. She needed validation. She sought understanding. She wanted an explanation. She wanted answers and searched for answers to life.

The one area I haven’t experienced is being the Nomad. The one who turns to sex, alcohol, drugs–addictions. The addiction fills the void and seduces the pain making them feel less vulnerable.

I found The Five Ways We Grieve
to be an interesting read that offered comfort. It didn’t blame death. It didn’t justify it. It allowed me to grieve in my own way for each person and know that I was “normal”. It gave me an understanding of how others around me grieve. This is a great book that truly provides food for the soul in its darkest time.

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*I received a copy of The Five Ways We Grieve in order to facilitate an honest review. No other compensation was received. The opinions, where expressed, are my own, and were in no way influenced by the sponsor. Others experiences may vary.

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