Jan's Reviews > The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us about Life After Loss

The Other Side of Sadness by George A. Bonanno
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Aug 01, 2011

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This book has been on my reading list for a long time. I figured that, with the recent, sudden passing of my mother, now would be a good time to finally read a book about bereavement.

This is not a how-to about working your way through grief. Rather, it is what the byline suggests, a look at what the latest research suggests about the mechanics of human bereavement. Bonanno is a psychologist whose field of research is grief, so he knows what he's talking about. Much to my surprise, this is a fairly new field of research; a lot of what was previously viewed as canon about bereavement has, in fact, now been disproved by researchers such as Bonanno. So forget those "five stages" and forget the idea that grief as to be "work" - Bonanno shows that, like most things in life, there's not just one way to grieve.

In a lot of ways, I really liked this book. Bonanno's research mirrors my own personal experience with grief. Having recently weathered some accusations that I wasn't grieving in the "right way," this book put the anxiety I felt about such accusations to rest. Bonanno shows that there is no "right way," so to speak. Rather, there are three general types of grieving - there is that small group that suffers from deep, intense grief that they find difficult to recover from; a small group that will work through a period of deep grieving that eventually evens out over time; and then there's the rest of us, what he calls the "resilient type," people who are generally okay in the face of death, although we have our ups and downs.

It's great to read about bereavement from someone who (supposedly anyway) actually knows what he's talking about, rather than previous psychologists, such as Freud, who posited theories about the topic without ever doing research into it (and whose theories became canon). However, Bonanno lost me in the last two chapters, where he goes on and on about the religious aspect of bereavement, something that I don't personally relate to. I'm a tried and true agnostic who has never once wondered where my loved ones have "gone" after death. I believe that I'll find out when I get there - if there's a "there" to get to. So I didn't really need to read two chapters about what other people speculate about the afterlife, at least not in a book about bereavement. But maybe that's just me - it might work perfectly fine for other readers.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2011 – Finished Reading
August 1, 2011 – Shelved
August 1, 2011 – Shelved as: non-fiction

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