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Society's Formulas For Grieving Don't Apply To Everyone

Our culture has made great strides in encouraging people to face death and dying head-on, and many people find it beneficial to dissect and articulate their feelings. But others still prefer to deal with grief by not talking about it or dwelling on their pain. Yet even when this low-key approach works for them, they often feel pressured to grieve in more demonstrative ways.
Our culture has made great strides in encouraging people to face death and dying head-on, and many people find it beneficial to dissect and articulate their feelings. But others still prefer to deal with grief by not talking about it or dwelling on their pain. Yet even when this low-key approach works for them, they often feel pressured to grieve in more demonstrative ways.

Given these tensions, some researchers say it's time for a clear-eyed reassessment of grief in America. "Research shows pretty clearly that the more people focus on the loss, the more prolonged their grief will be," says George Bonanno, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University's Teachers College.

Since 1990 he and colleagues have interviewed hundreds of mourners and used standardized measurements, such as facial expressions, to determine distress over grief. Bonanno has compiled data from his studies and scores of others, and all reach similar conclusions: grief treatments are mostly ineffective, and humans are generally resilient. His research, presented recently at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting, finds that about 85 percent of people adequately cope with their grief within a year or two. Most don't need professional help or prolonged "grief work."

This article, written by Jeffrey Zaslow, appeared in the September 13th , 2005 publication of The Kansas City Star.

Published Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2005

Society's Formulas For Grieving Don't Apply To Everyone

Our culture has made great strides in encouraging people to face death and dying head-on, and many people find it beneficial to dissect and articulate their feelings. But others still prefer to deal with grief by not talking about it or dwelling on their pain. Yet even when this low-key approach works for them, they often feel pressured to grieve in more demonstrative ways.

Given these tensions, some researchers say it's time for a clear-eyed reassessment of grief in America. "Research shows pretty clearly that the more people focus on the loss, the more prolonged their grief will be," says George Bonanno, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University's Teachers College.

Since 1990 he and colleagues have interviewed hundreds of mourners and used standardized measurements, such as facial expressions, to determine distress over grief. Bonanno has compiled data from his studies and scores of others, and all reach similar conclusions: grief treatments are mostly ineffective, and humans are generally resilient. His research, presented recently at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting, finds that about 85 percent of people adequately cope with their grief within a year or two. Most don't need professional help or prolonged "grief work."

This article, written by Jeffrey Zaslow, appeared in the September 13th , 2005 publication of The Kansas City Star.
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