The Truth About Grief: The Myth of its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by journalist Ruth Davis Konigsberg
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s famous five stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — have been taught all over America and basically become part of our vernacular. In fact, in many ways these stages have been taken as gospel, as prescriptive phases that everyone goes through.
But would you be surprised to learn that this theory was based on interviews with terminally ill patients, NOT with people who lost a loved one? That it originally described how people deal with their own impending deaths? That Kübler-Ross’s theory has never been validated by one single study?
The Truth About Grief: The Myth of its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss by journalist Ruth Davis Konigsberg delves deeply into how Kübler-Ross’s stages (and her legendary book On Death & Dying) were developed, the reasons for their mass appeal, the history of grief, the grief industry, the differences between the sexes (hint: this, too, is not what it seems) and grief among different cultures
...that experts really don’t know what exactly helps bereavement.
Konigsberg is an excellent writer and provides a straightforward and rigorously researched look at the reality of grief and loss. The Truth About Grief is not a book that tugs at your heartstrings — though her interviews may — and at times, her style may be viewed as cold and callous, considering the subject. But that’s the point: to present a frank and clear-cut exploration of grief and loss; to reveal the truth behind the pseudoscience of grief.
Konigsberg easily weaves research findings into her content, so the reader doesn’t feel bogged down by a batch of data. Instead, the book is easy to read, eye opening and enlightening. Readers will no doubt be surprised to learn how the five stages came to be, that therapy is largely only helpful for people with an intense or chronic form of grief and that experts really don’t know what exactly helps bereavement.
This book is a must-read for any professional and person really, so that the next time you work with a client or speak with someone who’s grieving — or if that someone is you — you know the facts and don’t espouse or rely on outdated and false information. You’ll know not to wait for the five stages either in yourself or someone else. You’ll know that people generally are resilient. And that current research is showing us a totally different picture of grief than was once drawn.
“Perhaps just the knowledge that our survival instinct is strong, and that a great many have not only endured terrible losses but have also thrived, can be a source of hope, something that I found to be quite scarce in our grief culture.” (p. 197)