The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss. Basic Books 2009.

This book was an eye-opener. After decades of living with Kubler-Ross and the five stages of grief and finding that proposition only somewhat helpful, suddenly here was this book, based on substantial years of recent research that offered different and enabling perspectives.

bonanoWhat I found helpful was Bonnano’s finding that we have in in-built disposition towards resilience. That makes sense to me. Our ancestors in the cradle of humankind could hardly sit around incapacitated by mourning without becoming easy prey for predators.

I appreciated his observation that the Buddhist acceptance of the impermanence of earthly life appeared to give Buddhists greater equanimity in handling bereavement. So, there’s the rub, how to acquire the equanimity without becoming Buddhist?

I enjoyed his non-judgment; the man who remarries within months of losing his beloved wife. We are all different. We all have our own experience of grief and the response to one death cannot necessarily predict our response to another.

What was very new for me was his research into trauma counseling, 9-11 provided a body of research. It seems we do better if there’s a space in which we do our own processing first before engaging with a counsellor. I’m curious to learn more.

One reviewer sort of accuses Bonnano of some ‘magical thinking’ when writes of a study trip to China and his impulse to write a ritual paper offering to his father, “Ni Hao, Dad”. That didn’t bother me. I enjoyed reading the scientific research results he offered. I’m comfortable with a dose of magical thinking. It’s what so intriguing about who we are as human beings; so many of us live lives guided by scientific proof (our planet IS warming) and side by side with this our lives are guided by our belief systems which for many include a deity.