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Maybe Grief Isn't So Bad After All

One of the most prominent bereavement researchers — George A. Bonanno, a clinical psychologist who is chairman of the counseling and clinical psychology department at Teachers College at Columbia University — has just published an intriguing and reassuring exploration of what they had learned. Among the findings is that all the widespread assumptions about mourning I just mentioned are fallacious.
In “The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss,” Dr. Bonanno does not minimize the acute sorrow people feel when someone they love dies. He acknowledges that a small proportion of mourners — 10 percent to 15 percent, he reports — have long-lasting depression and distress and may benefit from medical intervention. But most people are, to use the term he does, resilient: they fluctuate between pain and happier emotions, seek comfort, maintain their equilibrium and, before long, find renewed meaning and pleasure in life.
“Most bereaved people get better on their own, without any kind of professional help,” Dr. Bonanno writes. “They may be deeply saddened, they may feel adrift for some time, but their life eventually finds its way again, often more easily than they thought possible. This is the nature of grief. This is human nature.”
Readers of New Old Age have had, or will have, front-row seats at this innate human drama as we lose our elderly parents, as they lose each other, and as they and we attend a growing number of funerals. Understanding the reality of how we cope and adapt — because for the most part, we do — can help. I found “The Other Side of Sadness” a useful correction to a lot of well-intentioned misinterpretation.
The article  "Maybe Grief Isn’t So Bad After All" was published on October 22nd, 2009 in the "New York Times":
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