Good Grief, Bad Grief?

You can move through grief without those famous "stages."

Posted Apr 20, 2011

Nude Woman Grieving
One of my "favorite" themes--one I write and read about a lot--is the terrifying idea of loss. Some of the best writers have based their best works on how it feels to lose a loved one.

Yet the psychology of loss and grieving has been shortchanged by the wide acceptance of the "five-stages theory" first popularized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross more than 40 years ago.

The Truth about Grief: The Myth of its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss, by Ruth Davis Konigsberg, tackles heavy-duty misconceptions in a way that's encouraging and highly readable. It's a science-based yet sensitive and thought-provoking look at how society constructs attitudes about loss, and how such attitudes may not be the most helpful for everyone.

Konigsberg explains that not everyone heals from horrific loss the same way, that most people recover with or without counseling about equally well, and that it's possible for some to accept their losses and move on in only half a year. Not that everyone can or will, but it's good to know that you won't necessarily suffer both wrenching loss and many years of unremitting misery when someone you love dies.

Did you know:

  • Talking about your loss isn't always necessary or best for healing.
  • So-called "complicated grief" that goes on for years isn't as common as you might think.
  • Resilience in the face of very disruptive events is common and doesn't mean there is a lack of feelings or that anything pathological is going on.

Truth about Grief
Konigsberg also explores the way grief professionals make money from the commercialization of grief. Many of them turn to this field after experiencing a major loss of their own, but, she writes, "Using personal experience or anecdote instead of research to guide treatment has been a big problem with applied thanatology all along."

See The Truth about Grief for current resources and links.

Copyright (c) by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. whose critically-acclaimed novel Kylie's Heel features an atheist who learns the hard way how to cope with vast grief and loss in the real world.

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