Helpful Science

  • Recent research finds that emotional tears contain stress hormones at higher levels than other tears do; this suggests crying flushes our bodies of toxins.  There is a biological reason for why we often feel better after crying.
  • New research on loss tells us that even those who have a devastating loss, genuinely laugh and smile in the earliest days of their grief.  George A. Bonanno calls this the oscillation of emotions.  Marked by waves of grief and periods of relief, it follows the biological fluctuation of our bodies (awake/asleep, breath in/breath out, muscles tighten/relax, temperatures rise/fall).

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  • The Five Stages of Grief, so accepted by and pervasive in Western culture that we can generally name them easily (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), were presented as a theory in a 1969 book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross about individuals who were dying and in the process of accepting their own deaths.  The theory was not about individuals who lost a loved one to death or anyone who experienced another kind of traumatic loss or tragedy.  There is no science that supports the generally-accepted ‘fact’ that grieving is a process and has definable, predictable, unalterable, required stages.
  • By six months, 45% of those who lose a loved one are through their grief reactions and have returned to normal functioning in their lives.  One in ten of us takes closer to eighteen months to demonstrate this same level of life functioning.  About one-quarter of us return to normal around the two year mark.  Remarkably, there is a small percentage (up to 5%) whose primary emotional response to the death of their loved one is relief and who return to normal life almost immediately.  These findings, reported by Ruth Davis Konisberg and George A. Bonanno, underline the spectrum of the normative timeline recovery from grief.

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  • Cultural, familial, and personality traits have a large impact on an individual’s mourning style.  As recognized by Dr. Roberta Temes, silence is not necessarily denial; for some, it is appropriate and useful.  The vast majority of us know how best to grieve our own losses; however, we are often challenged by others to fit their perception of ‘normal.’
  • Grief counseling is not demonstrably beneficial to the majority of those experiencing a traumatic loss or death.  Ruth Davis Konigsberg reports analysis in 2008 by Robert Neimeyer and Joseph Currier of “the results of over sixty controlled studies on grief intervention, they found no consistent pattern of an overall preventive effect.”
  • According to George A. Bonanno’s research, between 10 and 15% of those who suffer a loss experience enduring, complicated grief.  Often they isolate themselves from others; their thoughts become focused largely on the person who died and their sense of loss.  These individuals do benefit from referrals to, and work with, skilled bereavement counselors and/or professional therapists.

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