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Author Topic: Grief - Meghan O’Rourke, New Yorker Magazine  (Read 702 times)
VitaminC
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« on: September 17, 2016, 02:06:17 PM »

Good Grief
Is there a better way to be bereaved?
By Meghan O’Rourke
www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/02/01/good-grief

Some outtakes which I feel are useful, in a general way, for members grieving their relationship. While this article is specifically about grieving the dead, the emotional reality of grieving a relationship is similar, I think.  

**

"The “stage theory,” as it came to be known, quickly created a paradigm for how Americans die. It eventually created a paradigm, too, for how Americans grieve: Kübler-Ross suggested that families went through the same stages as the patients. Decades later, she produced a follow-up to “On Death and Dying” called “On Grief and Grieving” (2005), explaining in detail how the stages apply to mourning. Today, Kübler-Ross’s theory is taken as the definitive account of how we grieve. It pervades pop culture—the opening episodes of this season’s “Grey’s Anatomy” were structured around the five stages—and it shapes our interactions with the bereaved. "

"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 “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."

" 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."

"he first systematic survey of grief was conducted by Erich Lindemann, a psychiatrist at Harvard, who studied a hundred and one bereaved patients at the Harvard Medical School, including relatives of soldiers and survivors of the infamous Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942. "

"So-called “normal” grief is marked by recurring floods of “somatic distress” lasting twenty minutes to an hour, comprising symptoms of breathlessness, weakness, and “tension or mental pain,” in Lindemann’s words. “There is restlessness, inability to sit still, moving about in an aimless fashion, continually searching for something to do.” Often, bereaved people feel hostile toward friends or doctors and isolate themselves. Typically, they are preoccupied by images of the dead."

"Psychiatrists today, following Lindemann’s lead, distinguish between “normal” grief and “complicated” or “prolonged” grief. But Holly Prigerson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, and Paul Maciejewski, a lecturer in psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, have found that even “normal” grief often endures for at least two years rather than weeks, peaking within six months and then dissipating. Additional studies suggest that grief comes in waves, welling up and dominating your emotional life, then subsiding, only to recur. As George A. Bonanno, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, writes in “The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss” (Basic; $25.95), “When we look more closely at the emotional experiences of bereaved people over time, the level of fluctuation is nothing short of spectacular.” This oscillation, he theorizes, offers relief from the stress grief creates. “Sorrow . . . turns out to be not a state but a process,” C. S. Lewis wrote in 1961. “It needs not a map but a history.”"

On why we need to grieve at all:

"Because we miss the one we love, and because a death brings up metaphysical questions about existence for which we have few self-evident answers. But hardheaded clinicians want to know exactly what grieving accomplishes. In “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917), Freud suggested that mourners had to reclaim energy that they had invested in the deceased loved one. Relationships take up energy; letting go of them, psychiatrists theorize, entails mental work. When you lose someone you were close to, you have to reassess your picture of the world and your place in it. The more your identity was wrapped up with the deceased, the more difficult the loss."

"In the nineteen-seventies, Colin Murray Parkes, a British psychiatrist and a pioneer in bereavement research, argued that the dominant element of grief was a restless “searching.” The heightened physical arousal, anger, and sadness of grief resemble the anxiety that children suffer when they’re separated from their mothers. Parkes, drawing on work by John Bowlby, an early theorist of how human beings form attachments, noted that in both cases—acute grief and children’s separation anxiety—we feel alarm because we no longer have a support system we relied on."

"A 2007 study by Paul Maciejewski found that the feeling that predominated in the bereaved subjects was not depression or disbelief or anger but yearning. Nor does belief in heavenly reunion protect you from grief. As Bonanno says, “We want to know what has become of our loved ones.”

"Meanwhile, the American Psychiatric Association is considering adding “complicated grief” to the fifth edition of its DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Certainly, some mourners need more than the loving support of friends and family. But 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."

On why we need others:

"ntil the twentieth century, private grief and public mourning were allied in most cultures. In many places, it used to be that if your husband died the village came to your door, bearing fresh-baked rolls or soup. As Darian Leader, a British psychoanalyst, argues in “The New Black: Mourning, Melancholia, and Depression” (Graywolf; $16), mourning “requires other people.” To lose someone was once to be swept into a flurry of rituals."

Where we come together nowadays:

"Today, Leader points out, our only public mourning takes the form of grief at the death of celebrities and statesmen. Some commentators in Britain sneered at the “crocodile tears” of the masses over the death of Diana. On the contrary, Leader says, this grief is the same as the old public grief in which groups got together to experience in unity their individual losses. As a saying from China’s lower Yangtze Valley (where professional mourning was once common) put it, “We use the occasions of other people’s funerals to release personal sorrows.” When we watch the televised funerals of Michael Jackson or Ted Kennedy, Leader suggests, we are engaging in a practice that goes back to soldiers in the Iliad mourning with Achilles for the fallen Patroclus. Our version is more mediated. Still, in the Internet age, some mourners have returned grief to a social space, creating online grieving communities, establishing virtual cemeteries, commemorative pages, and chat rooms where loss can be described and shared."

Good to remember:

"Realizing that the stage theory had grown into a restrictive prescription for grief, she collaborated with David Kessler, a hospice expert, to write “On Grief and Grieving.” Near the end of a chapter about her own grief—which arrived late in life, following the death of her ex-husband—she noted, “I now know that the purpose of my life is more than these stages. I have been married, had kids, then grandkids, written books, and traveled. I have loved and lost, and I am so much more than five stages. And so are you.”
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