Drawing a clearer distinction between common and unusual reactions to loss might ultimately encourage those who don’t need outside help and better assist those who do.
That does not mean that grief could — or should — be diminished. But perhaps just the knowledge that our survival instinct is strong and that a great many people have not only endured terrible losses but also thrived can be a source of hope, something in scarce supply in our grief culture.
As a society, we will most likely be unable to face grief without some sort of script. “No culture before has abandoned all recommendations as to how to mourn,” notes sociologist Tony Walter of the University of Bath.
But it certainly seems time to move beyond our current habit of using untested theories to create unnecessarily lengthy — and agonizing — models for coping with grief that have created more anxiety about the experience instead of alleviating it. Losing someone is hard enough as it is.
Adapted from The Truth About Grief, by Ruth Davis Konigsberg. © 2011. Published by Simon & Schuster Inc.