There is a long article on grief in the New Yorker. This has been a keen interest of mine since I worked in hospice many years ago.

Another reason grief has often been discussed on this blog is because there is a move towards the pathologizing of this phenomena which is deeply and profoundly human. No one escapes it and there are many ways people experience it. There was in fact an article in the New York Times with the same title as the one below, Good Grief, that spoke to the issue of pathologizing this normal process in the DSM and calling it pathological after only two weeks.

An excerpt below of Good Grief from The New Yorker:

Perhaps the stage theory of grief caught on so quickly because it made loss sound controllable. The trouble is that it turns out largely to be a fiction, based more on anecdotal observation than empirical evidence. Though Kübler-Ross captured the range of emotions that mourners experience, new research suggests that grief and mourning don’t follow a checklist; they’re complicated and untidy processes, less like a progression of stages and more like an ongoing process—sometimes one that never fully ends. Perhaps the most enduring psychiatric idea about grief, for instance, is the idea that people need to “let go” in order to move on; yet studies have shown that some mourners hold on to a relationship with the deceased with no notable ill effects. (In China, mourners regularly speak to dead ancestors, and one study has shown that the bereaved there suffer less long-term distress than bereaved Americans do.) At the end of her life, Kübler-Ross herself recognized how far astray our understanding of grief had gone. In “On Grief and Grieving,” she insisted that the stages were “never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages.” If her injunction went unheeded, perhaps it is because the messiness of grief is what makes us uncomfortable.

Anyone who has experienced grief can testify that it is more complex than mere despondency. “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear,” C. S. Lewis wrote in “A Grief Observed,” his slim account of the months after the death of his wife, from cancer. Scientists have found that grief, like fear, is a stress reaction, attended by deep physiological changes. Levels of stress hormones like cortisol increase. Sleep patterns are disrupted. The immune system is weakened. Mourners may experience loss of appetite, palpitations, even hallucinations. They sometimes imagine that the deceased has appeared to them, in the form of a bird, say, or a cat. It is not unusual for a mourner to talk out loud—to cry out—to a lost one, in an elevator, or while walking the dog…

….making a disease of grief may be another sign of a huge, and potentially pernicious, shift that took place in the West over the past century—what we might call the privatization of grief. read the rest

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