The Theater of the Brain

The play of consciousness.

Grief from a Death of a Loved One Is Part of Life

Grief from a death of a loved one is part of life. It can take from one to two years and with certain deaths five years. And with important relationships, one never fully recovers. This is the human condition. According to the DSM IV grief lasting over two months is a brain disorder. DSM5 dropped that down to two weeks. Both of them are an insult to the human condition. Read More

American Psychiatric Association

So we can't expect common sense and wisdom manifesting very easily from the APA. Too much mental activity disconnected from the rest of life. One of the side effects of over specialization is loosing knowledge of the forest.

As a result and as usual, the blinds are leading the blinds. That is the normal course in human history. And the results are often insults to the human condition.

Grief is normal and in the long term valuable to the extent in keeps our heart open, but I do think that modern cultures makes us much more fragile, vulnerable, fearful than it is either healthy or beneficial.

One interested area to investigate with this issue is Tibetan Buddhism which teaches compassion more than any culture than I know about and yet does not grieve to the extent western cultures do.

Dear Anonymous, I would

Dear Anonymous,
I would differ with you in the following respects. Mourning does more than keeping our hearts open. It allows us to recover our selves. This does not reflect an over fragility, but rather it is the work of healing from loss and pain. Although I value some aspects of Buddhism, I find that many of its teachings foster a distance and a removal from an engaged emotional life. Paradoxically, when this is an issue, it functions similarly to many psychiatric drugs, which I find problematic.

Another point of view

Response from Anonymous

These comment boxes only allow for sound bites so often I find the differences of opinions are simply due to not being able to explain fully and with nuance one's thinking. Which is not possible here.

When we scratch our scabs all the time the wound never heals.
There is a time for support groups and a time to move on.

My view is that in our culture we have a tendency not to complete the healing process and come out whole at the other end. There is a tendency to access our feelings (which is a great and necessary first step) but to often wallow in them longer than it is healthy.

So far as I can tell most wisdom traditions that I am informed about tend to give us the room the grieve but not an infinite amount of room (But this without judgement). We do what we can but we are encouraged for our own good to move on.

Well, we see eye to eye on

Well, we see eye to eye on many points. For starters, this is all shorthand.
The whole point of mourning is to move on - To feel what has to be digested, in the respectful and emotional arms of another. Neither withdrawal and dismissing what has to be attended to, nor wallowing, serves anyone. And I, like you, don’t advocate either.

My darling father, my hero in

My darling father, my hero in life whom I loved dearly, took his life via Smith&Wesson when he was confronted with: death of his beloved spouse, my mother (after two years passed); inability to quit drinking/alcoholism, which appears to be genetic; doctor's report to him of his diabetes, high blood pressure, macular degeneration and among other maladies, impending, progressive dementia. He was raised by a divorced woman during the great depression, took advantage of the Civilian Conservation Corps to get work experience, was a WWII veteran, a Marine, former Los Angeles policeman (20 years) and independent hauler/trucker (another 20 years). I was already diagnosed major depressive when he died so it's been eight years and am just starting to feel "human" again. Your post was very helpful, Doctor Berezin. I don't "twitter" or "tweet," but will find some way to follow you. The DSM references resonated and hit home too. Thank you.

I hope things go well for

I hope things go well for you.
Dr. B

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Robert Berezin, M.D., is the author of Psychotherapy of Character. He taught psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School for thirty years.


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