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by George A. Bonanno
Basic Books, 2009
Review by A. Ch. Weizmann, Ph.D. on Jul 27th 2010

The Other Side of Sadness

George A. Bonanno is Professor of Clinical Psychology and Chair of the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia's University Teachers College.  His new book is about grief and mourning: his approach is key to our understanding and experience of this issue. The point here is the importance of bereavement and loss, as crucial situations, in human life.

George Bonanno started on his research about in 1991 as Director of a Research Study group on grieving at the University of California in San Francisco.  Bereavement, loss and mourning within the psychological trauma are now the object of the research of Bonanno and his new book offers to the reader a new insight with a lucid and pleasant style.

 As Bonanno says, bereavement is "still the focus of my career... Often the discoveries that my colleagues and I made were unexpected, simply because we had questions about bereavement that had not been asked before" (p.5).

 This research shows that bereavement is truly a complicated, "multicolored experience" with several aspects and dimensions. Perhaps one of the most practical and highly important contributions of Bonanno's book is that grief and loss are not unrelenting and never-ending.  Based upon scientific analysis of different cases we can read and study a complete and holistic overview of the psychological nature, dimensions and effects of loss and grief in the daily life of people.

Resilience is a key tool of Bonanno and the good news is that most of us are resilient.  The natural resilience of bereaved people certainly does not exclude the pain and suffering caused by the grief and the loss, but could give a wider significance ("the other side") psychologically speak, to such pain.  Bonanno reminds us that when it is not possible to keep away from loss and pain we have the only option to deal with them as best as we can.

 Through the pages of his hopeful book Bonnano sets out the stories of so many people (adults and children, some of them suffered the trauma of 9/11) and his conclusion, as psychologist, is that a quantity of survivors in situation of loss and bereavement maintained near just right psychological wellbeing.

The thesis of this book -- and its very important teaching for us -- could be summarized thus: Resilience is genuine, prevailing and lasting. Why? This new kind of Research stresses out that we are naturally resilient (for example, our skill to experience and communicate grief when we suffered, etc.)

 Bonanno didn't limit his research to the traditional theories of bereavement, for example the Freudian or Kubler-Ross interpretation about the emotional bonds with the deceased. As it is known, these theories generally are concerned about the necessity of sever those bonds in order to heal and to recovery from the loss. Bonnano affirms that the persistence of emotional ties, exemplified in the book with so many beautiful stories; is not necessarily pathological.

With a very lively style, The Other Side of Sadness opens new ways of research into an important aspect of our human experience.

 

© 2010 A.Ch.F. Weizmann

 

 

 

A.Ch.F. Weizmann, Ph.D., Haifa University