Cover Image: The Grieving Brain

The Grieving Brain

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Member Reviews

Dr. O’Connor has given a huge gift to those who grieve...which somewhere in time is all of us. In contrast to Kubler-Ross’ breakthrough book which looked at grieving as five more or less distinct stages (a sixth, finding meaning, was added by Dr. David Kessler), O’Connor explains what is happening in the brain when we love someone, and then the brain’s  chaotic and excruciating process of adjustment to that person being gone. She uses information from fMRIs that show what the brain is doing (and trying to do) to process the world turning upside down. In addition to the fascinating and well-explained science of grieving, the author speaks very compassionately to the bereaved to “normalize” their experience and to offer ways of dealing with it. This book deserves to become a classic and a gift for those who still love someone who is gone.
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I really appreciated the care that O'Connor took in preparing this book. As someone with a neuroscience background and someone that is currently grieving, it helped me a lot to read about how the brain interprets grief and I like thinking about grief as learning process. Because of my scientific background, I wish she would have gone into more detail on some topics, but overall I am quite pleased with this book and would recommend it to my loved ones that may need it.
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This is such an interesting and informative book. I loved learning the neurological link to the emotions of grief.
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Loss is change. Our brains don’t like change. Grief is our adaption to that change.

If you want to better understand grief, you'll find this new book fascinating. Instead of feeling bad about ourselves for how slowly we process grief, or for how differently we grieve compared to someone else, this book reminds us that it’s not all up to us.

Dr. O’Connor (neuroscientist and psychologist) has compiled decades of research into how our brains process grief. She makes a distinction between grief (the intense emotion that crashes over you and recurs over and over) and grieving (the process, not the moment of grief).

She writes,

“Grief never ends, and it is a natural response to loss. You will experience pangs of grief over this specific person forever. . . . But, whereas you will feel the universally human emotion of grief forever, your grieving, your adaptation, changes the experience over time.
The first one hundred times you have a wave of grief, you may think, I will never get through this, I cannot bear this. The one hundred and first time, you may think, I hate this, I don’t want this—but it is familiar, and I know I will get through this moment. Even if the feeling of grief is the same, your relationship to the feeling changes.”

Grieving is the brain at work. Regardless of the source of grief (it’s not just about death), our brain has to update the map in our head to account for the absence of the missing people or things.

And updating the map takes time.

“Our brain trusts and makes predictions based on our lived experience. When you wake up one morning and your loved one is not in the bed next to you, the idea that she has died is simply not true in terms of probability. For our brain, this is not true on day one, or day two, or for many days after her death. We need enough new lived experiences for our brain to develop new predictions, and that takes time.”

To help someone grieving, Dr. O’Connor suggests that “cheering them up” is not the goal. Being with them is. Even though each person’s grief is unique, the common experience of grief can bring us together.

“Once you have experienced deep grieving, you walk through a doorway to a whole community of people that you would otherwise never have understood and empathized with. You probably would not choose this door, if the choice were yours. And yet, here you are on the other side, with knowledge about yourself and a marvelous brain that you can utilize to build and navigate a new world.”

Books like The Grieving Brain help us learn healthier ways of thinking about and processing our grief.

My thanks to HarperOne + NetGalley for the review copy of this book.
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I enjoyed this book because of it's writing style, unique topic, and the fact that it really provided a thought-provoking experience. Recommended for readers who want to read slowly so as to take time to process.
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Having just lost a loved one, the opportunity to read and review this book was timely. I really enjoyed the author's explanation of how our brain is affected by grief and how it processes the loss of someone in our lives. 
I am a data nerd, so the science behind my feelings really helped me put things in perspective. 
If you are experiencing grief and struggle at all with how the "waves" of it come and go so inexplicably, this is a great book to help you understand what you are going through. 
So thankful for the ARC.
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This book deals with an obviously sad and unavoidable subject, but the author is not gloomy about it. She presents the unbearable pain of losing someone in a factual but compassionate manner. She focuses on the science of grief and grieving, but with a human touch that makes it easier to read. She describes the experiments that have been conducted in an effort to understand the brain and its chemistry during a loss. It is easy to follow and illuminating. A close family member has a terminal illness and this book helped me understand some of my reactions. I hope that her suggestions and the knowledge the author shares in this volume will help me when the inevitable comes. It also has useful ideas to help people you know when they are grieving.  I would say I recommend this book to anyone who’s facing the loss of a loved one but, since this is something that we’ll all have to deal with sooner or later, I think everyone should read it. 
I chose to read to this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/# HarperOne!
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"The Grieving Brain" by Mary-Frances O'Connor is, sadly, very necessary in this age of the pandemic. Many people are struggling with grief right now, and I was intrigued to find out exactly what grief does to the human brain. This book would be good for someone who wants a very scientific look into the brain and the effects of grief. It was a little too heavy for me, but I did find some aspects of it to be very helpful and useful.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. All opinions are my own.
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This book is a surprisingly easy read despite the challenging topic and the scientific research the author includes throughout. The reading experience was enjoyable for me personally because I felt like I finally understood my own brain in a lot of ways; As well as gaining new language to discuss my own brain. The author beautifully explains and clarifies her research in a way that largely anyone can understand.
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LOVED loved loved this book.

The writing had me captivated from the start to finish, and I found myself reading it almost straight through one sitting. I look forward to reading more by this author.
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I have been grieving for a loved one for 30 years and thought there was someone wrong with me.  Thanks to this wonderful book I no longer feel like such a damaged person. The research the author does and gives us has helped me enormously. Thank you Ms. O'Connor
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I found this book to be very enlightening and educational. Grief is such a difficult thing for people to understand and cope with. As a counselor, I will be using some of these things I learned in my practice for sure. Definitely recommend this book to everyone!
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