A leading expert in emotions research establishes a bold new paradigm for understanding grief.
He once helped debunk the theory of repressed memory; now this Columbia clinical psychology professor takes on the conventional wisdom about grieving. There's little evidence to support the existence of “stages of mourning” or the corollary that if the stages aren't followed completely, there's cause for alarm. What Bonanno does find is “a natural resilience” that guides us through the sadness of loss, and grief, rather than distracting us, actually causes the mind to focus; it also elicits the “compassion and concern” that humans are hard-wired to offer in response to another's suffering. Bonanno acknowledges that grief is sometimes extreme and requires treatment, much like post-traumatic stress disorder. But with this work, science and common sense come together in a thoughtful, kindhearted way; stories of loss go far beyond striking a familiar chord—they give us hope. As one mother who lost her daughter tells Bonanno, even years later she felt her daughter was like a “little ember, and if I need to, if I want to have Claire next to me, I blow on it, ever so gently, and it glows bright again.” (Oct.)