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The Other Side of Sadness


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About the Author

George A. Bonanno is professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University. His work has been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and he has appeared on CNN and 20/20. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.


This illuminating work by Bonanno (clinical psychology, Columbia Univ.) challenges Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five-step model for understanding grief and the dying process. The author shares his research into the experiences of ordinary people who have lost a loved one, revealing how their personal journeys through the grief process differ remarkably from what most self-help books and the professional literature on grief describe. In warmly presented chapters, Bonanno cogently covers the traditional response to grief in Western culture, how grief many times is overcome with enlightened levity, the importance of resilience after losing a loved one, the importance of memories in the grief process, the strength that develops after overcoming a loss, and the importance of beliefs in various myths about the afterlife. Verdict While the popular and the professional literature on death and dying continue to surge, Bonanno's work manages to offer a clearly professed alternative way to understand grief that will be a refreshing new resource for professionals, as well as for the grieving.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"Fascinating and readable ... a sensitive and sensible view of loss."--New York Times
"A deep and intelligent book.... It's heartening to discover that grieving is not 'work, ' we don't have to be successful at it, and we're stronger than we know."--Double X, Slate
"This is a valuable book for Bonanno's application of the scientific method to a field that badly needs it."--New Scientist
"Perhaps the most renowned grief researcher in the United States ... Bonanno's work ... has redefined the science of grief research."--The Atlantic
"The Other Side of Sadness is a game changer. Bonanno carefully assembles scientific evidence to show that most of what we thought we knew is just plain wrong. If you want to know the truth about the human experience of loss, there's only one book on the shelf."--Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness
"Brilliant and moving."--Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology, University of California, Berkeley, and author of
Born to Be Good

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