The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss (Paperback)
NPR SciFri Book Club Pick
Next Big Idea Club's "Top 21 Psychology Books of 2022"
Behavioral Scientist Notable Books of 2022
A renowned grief expert and neuroscientist shares groundbreaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning.
In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. O’Connor has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, and in this book, she makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible through her contagious enthusiasm, and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, or how to imagine a future without them.
The Grieving Brain addresses:
- Why it’s so hard to understand that a loved one has died and is gone forever
- Why grief causes so many emotions—sadness, anger, blame, guilt, and yearning
- Why grieving takes so long
- The distinction between grief and prolonged grief
- Why we ruminate so much after we lose a loved one
- How we go about restoring a meaningful life while grieving
Based on O’Connor’s own trailblazing neuroimaging work, research in the field, and her real-life stories, The Grieving Brain combines storytelling, accessible science, and practical knowledge that will help us better understand what happens when we grieve and how to navigate loss with more ease and grace.
About the Author
Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, where she directs the Grief, Loss and Social Stress (GLASS) Lab, investigating the effects of grief on the brain and the body. O’Connor earned a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Arizona in 2004, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in psychoneuroimmunology at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Following a faculty appointment at UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, she returned to the University of Arizona in 2012. Having grown up in Montana, she now lives in sunny Tucson, Arizona.
"For those who want to understand what’s happening to them and why grief is so confounding, this is a fascinating and comforting read.” — Oprah Daily
“[A]n insightful book…fascinating look at what goes on inside our minds when we lose someone special.”
— Wake-Up Call, Katie Couric Media
“This book has helped so many who are grasping to make sense of loss, and I recommend it now, hoping that it will offer insights, solace, or even answers.”
— Amanda Stern, How to Live (blog)
“The Grieving Brain is a probing exploration into the science of grief and grieving. We are given an opportunity to view loss in a new way. If you have felt the pain of a loss and wondered if it will ever get better, O'Connor shows how the brain can help heal.” — Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Change
“A pioneer of the neuroscience of grief, O'Connor lays out in simple prose how we try to make sense of the impossible conundrum of loss. Anyone who's been through a loss or just wants to know how bereavement works, this is the book for you.” — George Bonanno, author of The End of Trauma
"We will all be touched by loss. To understand grief is to understand a fundamental human experience. This book is a powerful and comprehensive exploration of grief, the best I have read.” — Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, pioneer in the end-of-life care field and author of Standing at the Edge and Being with Dying
“Absorbing and wise, The Grieving Brain offers insights and coping mechanisms for those of us who have peered up from the depths of grief and wondered, why does this hurt so much? How can I make a meaningful life for myself now?” — Maryanne O’Hara, author of Little Matches
"The Grieving Brain answered fascinating questions that I would not have thought to ask. State-of-science studies, fun facts and fascinating insights kept me turning pages and losing track of time." — Ira Byock, MD, active emeritus professor, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, author of Dying Well and The Best Care Possible
“[C]lear, confirming, compassionate, beautifully readable …”
— Mad In America