Category Archives: grief

God and Grief

The Reverend Thomas G. Long, of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, recently wrote an interesting article in the journal Christian Century. “Theologians had been raising objections to Kubler-Ross’s ideas for a long time. The idea that people sail across the stygian stream towards some tranquil stage of acceptance is not an empirical observation. It is bad theology, a product of Kubler-Ross’s smuggled Neoplatonism, which stands in tension with Christian eschatology and the biblical concept of death as the final enemy.”

Do Men and Women Grieve Differently?

An article in the New York Times about male grievers wanting to join support groups and finding only women raises the question: do men and women grieve differently? Author Perry Garfinkel concludes that yes, they do, but cites as evidence some stereotypes that have never been proven: that women are more expressive and “intuitive,” while men don’t want to talk about their feelings. I reviewed all the literature and devoted a whole chapter in my book to this debate and conclude that the research is too flawed to tell if men and women grieve differently, and if there are differences, they’re certainly not as great as the similarities. For the most part, the attempt to “gender” grief—just as marshalling it into stages—does it a disservice.

Online Support Groups—Too Much Self-Disclosure?

As of 2009, there were an estimated 55 different Internet grief support groups offering communities for all types of losses. Earlier research described such sites as “cyber-refuges” from a world where grief was unwelcome, and found that those bereaved by suicide in particular found such support online helpful, especially having access to an outlet day and night. But a recent analysis of the content of messages posted on several web-based support groups found that self-disclosure accounted for two-thirds of all statements. Although research on peer helping has found that such a high level of self-disclosure can hinder interaction, the authors conclude that the bereaved who go online are both offering and seeking support, and that a protocol has developed whereby respondents share their own personal experiences in response to the original post. The authors conclude, “In many cases, internet grief communities may serve as a valued supplement to therapy. However, it is important that practitioners weigh the potential benefits and risks of grief forums when recommending them to clients. They also should monitor their clients’ experiences with such forums.”

Losing a Parent and Obesity

An intriguing new study just published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine suggests a link between the death of a parent in childhood (or prolonged separation) and obesity as an adult. Researchers in Italy interviewed 120 patients who were undergoing pre-surgical psychiatric consultation for bariatric surgery. Overall, 28 percent of the patients reported a childhood parental death or separation (and a whopping 91 percent were diagnosed with bipolar spectrum disorder.) Of course, this in no way means that people who lose their parents when young will become obese, but it does suggest that both mental illness and trauma (and not just genetics or a lack of willpower as is commonly thought) may play a role in obesity.

What Do People Really Need in a Crisis?

Logistical help, not counseling. Great article by humanitarian aid expert Dr. Sheri Fink on about what the people of Japan really need right now.

How Your Brain Copes With Grief

Just as neuroscientists have pinpointed exactly what happens to your brain under stress, so too have they been able to identify some of the mechanisms of resilience. A fascinating article in Scientific American looks at the biochemical, genetic and behavioral foundations of emotional strength, and how that information may help us when our healing processes fail.