“Bonanno doesn’t pretend that smiling is a magical elixir or that laughing will cure the hardest-suffering patients. Grief isn’t a single track, he’s found, but a long private journey that splits along three rough paths. Ten percent of us experience ‘chronic’ and relentless grief that demands counseling. Another third or so plunges into deep sadness and gradually begins recovery. But most of us—’between 50 and 60 percent,’ Bonanno said—quickly appear to be fine, despite day-to-day fluctuations. Scientists used to consider these patients tragic actors, shoving their feelings into the core of their bodies, where they would only explode with volcanic violence in dreadful ways later in life. But this, Bonanno says, might be the biggest myth of all. ‘If you think you’re doing okay,’ he said, ‘then you’re doing okay.'”
At The Atlantic, Derek Thompson talks about losing his mother to cancer and about the new science looking at the way we grieve. Read more about grieving.
Image: George Bonanno, The Other Side of Sadness
We need your help to get to 5,000 Longreads Members.