The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss

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Overview


We tend to understand grief as a predictable five-stage process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But in The Other Side of Sadness, George Bonanno shows that our conventional model discounts our capacity for resilience. In fact, he reveals that we are already hardwired to deal with our losses efficiently—not by graduating through static phases. Weaving in explorations of mourning rituals and the universal experiences of the death of a parent or child, Bonanno examines how our inborn ...
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The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss

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Overview


We tend to understand grief as a predictable five-stage process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But in The Other Side of Sadness, George Bonanno shows that our conventional model discounts our capacity for resilience. In fact, he reveals that we are already hardwired to deal with our losses efficiently—not by graduating through static phases. Weaving in explorations of mourning rituals and the universal experiences of the death of a parent or child, Bonanno examines how our inborn emotions—anger and denial, but also relief and joy—help us deal effectively with loss. And grieving goes beyond mere sadness: it can deepen interpersonal connections and often involves positive experiences. In the end, mourning is not predictable, but incredibly sophisticated. Combining personal anecdotes and original research, The Other Side of Sadness is a must-read for those going through the death of a loved one, mental health professionals, and readers interested in neuroscience and positive psychology.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
This illuminating work by Bonanno (clinical psychology, Columbia Univ.) challenges Elisabeth Kübler-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
From the Publisher
Library Journal
“Illuminating…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.”

Publishers Weekly
“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.”

Camille Wortman, Professor of Psychology, Stony Brook University
“Bonanno, the most productive and influential bereavement researcher in America today, has changed the scientific landscape in the field of grief and bereavement.”

Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology, University of California Berkeley and author of Born To Be Good
The Other Side of Sadness is brilliant and moving. Bonanno turns our thinking about loss on its head. He reveals the subtle and myriad ways we are resilient, how we find new layers of meaning, why we laugh, and gain insight when loved ones pass. This inspiring book will fill you with wisdom about the other side of loss, and make life immeasurably richer.”

Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., Kenan Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and author of Positivity
The Other Side of Sadness paints a refreshingly new and scientifically-grounded portrait of the grieving process, one infused with positivity, laughter, and enduring bonds. Anyone interested in the emotional nuances of the human condition will value this warm, engaging, and accessible book.”

Jim Whitaker, Founder and Director Project Rebirth
“George Bonanno’s ground-breaking research on grief illuminates mankind’s profound capacity for resilience, and shows us how to find meaning in life after death.”

Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of Stumbling on Happiness
“There are a lot of books on bereavement and now you can throw them all away. Bonanno carefully assembles scientific evidence to show that most of what we thought we knew is just plain wrong. The Other Side of Sadness is a game changer. There’s nothing else like it. If you want to know the truth about the human experience of loss, there’s only one book on the shelf.”

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Professor of Psychology, Yale University
“Bonanno has revolutionized our thinking about how people respond to loss and trauma. The Other Side of Sadness has tremendous implications for interventions and for how people see themselves.” 

Christopher Peterson, Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan
The Other Side of Sadness melds rigorous research and compelling case examples to inform, enlighten, and inspire. I highly recommend this book.” 

Richard J. McNally, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author of Remembering Trauma
“No one has done more to transform our understanding of how people cope with the loss of a loved one than George Bonanno. His landmark research overturns engrained myths about mourning, and identifies sources of human resilience in the face of loss. The Other Side of Sadness is an excellent, emotionally moving account of how people overcome the pangs of grief.”

New Scientist
“This is a valuable book for Bonanno's application of the scientific method to a field that badly needs it.”

New York Times
“Fascinating and readable… a sensitive and sensible view of loss.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465021901
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 215,112
  • Product dimensions: 8.38 (w) x 11.34 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet 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.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note viii

Chapter 1 The Worst Thing That Could Ever Happen 1

Chapter 2 A Bit of History 11

Chapter 3 Sadness and Laughter 25

Chapter 4 Resilience 45

Chapter 5 Whatever Gets You Through the Night 67

Chapter 6 Relief 83

Chapter 7 When Grief Takes Over 95

Chapter 8 Terror and Curiosity 113

Chapter 9 Between Was and Is and Will Be 131

Chapter 10 Imagining the Afterlife 145

Chapter 11 Chinese Bereavement Ritual 169

Chapter 12 Thriving in the Face of Adversity 195

Acknowledgments 205

Notes 207

Index 229

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2009

    Refreshing Book on Grief Based on Science

    When I picked up this book I was amazed to realize that all of the other books I'd read about grief were based on something other than science. I don't know what the author was using to write the other books (like the stages books) but this one is based on decades of research. At first I was like, "Oh no, it's going to be very scientific and scary," but it was just the opposite. The feeling of the book is gentle, but factual. There were lots of moving stories I could relate to, too. I would definitely give this book to anyone I was worried about who might be mourning or who has suffered a loss. It was a relief!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2009

    solid read

    Solid book. Good science that I could understand. I learned a great deal from this book. Considering the subject matter, quite a compelling read

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    the other side of saness

    Too bad that your ratings do not allow one star! This book is not for the novice reader, nor is it a coffee table book. Many of the the issues with which I deal on a daily basis were not addressed at all. I have given my copy to the public library, where it may find a more appreciative audience.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Everyone experiences the losses of important people in their wor

    Everyone experiences the losses of important people in their world.  Because of this truth, when one seeks the help of a Mental Health professional, one of the major areas of evaluation during intake is to assess the level of grief each individual.   The language of “Grief Work” or the “Work of Mourning” is deeply ingrained the nomenclature of counseling profession, accepted as a matter-of-course as a result of the “research” of grief and its effects.  Grief is thought to be of such importance that a mentor once tutored me that, in regards to treating individuals, “any session that is held without an awareness of the (client’s) grief is incomplete.”  Dr. Bonano addresses this issue, using his extensive, original research and the work of other scientists, in this easily comprehended, documented tome.
    The author credit’s Sigmund Freud with the original idea of “the Work of Mourning” but also indicates that this is one of his less developed concepts.  As has become true with many of his concepts, Freud’s grief ideas became codified and the field of “Grief Work” was born.  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her work with the terminally ill, developed “the stages” an individual experienced as they faced their nearing death.  Those stages (the term “stages” lends an inaccurate understanding of the experience) were broadened to include everyone facing any (and all) moments of grief.  Dr. Bonano argues the data indicates the broad application of Dr. Kubler-Ross’ findings is misguided, as grief is universal, personal, fluid and cannot be limited to a step-by-step event that can “completed.”   Grief will be intense at points but those moments will be relatively brief for the majority of those experiencing bereavement.  For the 15% of the population whose bereavement does become entrenched, Dr. Bonano states, what is felt is close to a Post-Traumatic Stress event caused by the loss.  Eventually, with VERY limited exceptions, those who grieve or are bereaved will re-engage with life.  Often, this reconnecting occurs within hours of the loss.  Grief does not have to be, nor is it normally, debilitating or routine. 
    Within the last seven months, I have faced the deaths of: an uncle, four friends, and the spouse of a friend; of those six deaths, only one, my uncle, was expected.  In my work, I sit with people who are actively grieving on a regular basis.  What Dr. Bonano writes in this relatively slim volume rings with deep truths of my encounter.  I have both experienced and seen in my clients the responses indicated by the author’s research.  
    The information cited by Dr. Bonano is sourced in a broad spectrum of experience, time, culture and history.  His discussion of the bereavement practices in Asia is intriguing; reading it lent perspective to how my culture responds to bereavement, specifically funerals.  The term “comfort food” had to have originated in an attempt to describe what is provided at a Southern Funeral.  The Chinese, according to this book, burn joss paper representations of the things “needed” by the departed in their life beyond this one, we Southerners cry ourselves silly then eat ourselves into a near coma.  Both responses have the same goal, to remember the departed and restore the living to life.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Perception changing

    George Bonanno's "The Other Side of Sadness" forgives us for falling into the trap of believing there is a correct way to act, feel and react when dealing with a loss. While this idea is something may professionals may already innately understand, it's not in the subconscious of our culture - we believe, and force others to believe, that there is a correct way to act when dealing with these issues instead of understanding that it's okay to look inside ourselves and honestly express the emotions we feel. Bonanno makes it okay and lets the negative side of social construct fall away.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2010

    One point of view

    The approach is an attemt to quanitfy/measure and describe grief from a social psychological perspective. Not especially intended for those who are looking for support while grieving, this is written more from an academic perspective with some intersting anecdotal stories for flavor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    good service

    good

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Thought provoking

    This book was beneficial in helping me deal with the recent loss of my mother. There were several "a-ha" moments as I read his theories about grief that do not follow the previously believed stages. Little slow in some parts- got a little medical.

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