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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A persuasive, informative, engaging book on a tough subject
I really enjoyed reading this book, nearly every page of it. It was both comforting and invigorating. It changed my view of grieving, and in some ways altered my understanding of human nature. It also resonated with some of my own experiences.

As I started to get an idea of the theme of Bonanno's book I became a little concerned that it promotes callousness,...
Published on January 26, 2010 by Joshua Mailman

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115 of 151 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Opposite of 'Couldn't Put it Down'
When a colleague described trying to read this book by saying "I began reading the book over the weekend and became so aggravated that I kept putting it down. Your concerns echo my concerns" I realized I was ready to post my review. George Bonanno's new book is heralded as presenting the best and latest in bereavement research. I am concerned that individuals who read...
Published on January 11, 2010 by Patricia A. Anewalt


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A persuasive, informative, engaging book on a tough subject, January 26, 2010
By 
This review is from: The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed reading this book, nearly every page of it. It was both comforting and invigorating. It changed my view of grieving, and in some ways altered my understanding of human nature. It also resonated with some of my own experiences.

As I started to get an idea of the theme of Bonanno's book I became a little concerned that it promotes callousness, but as I read on I noticed this was not all the case; the book delivers its hopeful message in the most humane and compassionate way--owing to both Bonanno's writing style and the autobiographical material he includes.

Another thing I like about the book is its pacing. A lot of general audience books these days say everything near the beginning and then reading to the end is just a chore. Not so with this book; surprising new elements spring up in the middle and end of the book that put an interesting spin on what occurs before.

I found it persuasive and satisfying how Bonanno identifies (mostly through his own empirical studies) how responses to loss vary greatly from person to person, often in a way that correlates with predictive factors. Resilience and grief following loss are not a one-size-fits-all. Furthermore, Bonanno explains how the specific responses to grief differ not just person to person but also from culture to culture (in the North America vs. in Asia, for instance).

Finally, I was impressed with how Bonanno doesn't just dismiss previous theories (such as Kubler-Ross) but rather explains what they do mean and how their implications were overextended. It puts the old and new theories together in context with each other.

I highly recommend this book, not just to the grieving, but to anyone curious about human resilience.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Other Side of Sadness What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss, October 13, 2009
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This review is from: The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss (Hardcover)
While reading "The Other Side of Sadness" I had many 'a ha' moments were the author's explanation helped congeal my incomplete ideas. My Father passed away three years ago and this book helped me to understand the process of loss. What surprised me was that 8 out of 10 of us are hard wired to recover from the loss of a close loved one. I feel prepared and better able to cope with another loss and also to understand what some one else may be going through.

What I found especially helpful was the explanation of the studies that supported his arguments interlaced with examples of his patients. The cumulative approach made it very easy to comprehend.

I do not read many books on psychology so for me this book not only dealt with grieving but gave me a greater understanding of some basic psychological concepts. Some of the knowledge I could apply to a friend going through grief from an unexpected divorce.

We do not seem to talk much about death in our society let alone from a personal perspective. The Other Side of Sadness allowed me to have an internal discussion and helped me to come to a greater peace on the loss of my Father.

I will send this book to friends who are dealing with grief.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thoughtful, Refreshing Take on Grief and Trauma, October 13, 2009
By 
Manhattan Daisy (New York City, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss (Hardcover)
This is a book I will give to anyone who suffers a loss. I picked up this book wondering what could yet another book on grief and trauma have to say. Well this one was completely different. First of all, I found it so reassuring. The author's tone is kind and yet authoritative. I felt immediately like I was in solid hands. And the message was also important. After reading this book, I stopped worrying so much about what happens to the survivors after someone dies. The message was uplifting--and unlike most books on grief, his thoughts are backed up by data/statistics he's collected over I think decades. I mean the title really says it: The new SCIENCE of bereavement, except that it's not a cold science book at all. The stories are moving and warm, but the science kept the book from being mushy and theoretical. I really felt like I could believe what he had to say, like, these are the facts. And the news is basically good.
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115 of 151 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Opposite of 'Couldn't Put it Down', January 11, 2010
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This review is from: The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss (Hardcover)
When a colleague described trying to read this book by saying "I began reading the book over the weekend and became so aggravated that I kept putting it down. Your concerns echo my concerns" I realized I was ready to post my review. George Bonanno's new book is heralded as presenting the best and latest in bereavement research. I am concerned that individuals who read this book will believe it to be fact simply because it is in black and white and especially because of the misleading subtitle referencing the "New Science of Bereavement." The opposite of a scientific contribution to the field, I see this book as unscientific and subjective, illustrating how wide the gap is between armchair academics and clinical reality. Bonanno's representation of recent developments in research does a great disservice to both bereavement counselors and bereaved individuals. Those grieving a significant loss will wonder whether they are resilient; and if they feel they need help from anyone, not just professionals, they will think it is because they are not resilient and thus inadequate in some way. A July 2007 press release by the American Psychological Association ([...]) opposed the primary theme of Bonanno's book. They stated that people suffering from grief can be helped and that flawed science led to unsupported negative reviews of grief counseling. They concluded that "there is no empirical or statistical evidence to suggest that grief counseling is harmful to clients or that clients who are "normally" bereaved are at special risk if they receive grief counseling." The APA press release described the statistical analysis forming the basis for Bonanno's stance as "fatally flawed."

No grief counselor would disagree the bereaved are more resilient than they realize. Research confirms most bereaved individuals do not need professional intervention. But I am disappointed to see the distorted picture Bonnano portrays of grief counseling. He generalizes about the entire field based on anecdotal examples, explaining why readers have found the book enjoyable and interesting. Including his own story about the death of his father, he stresses one is better off coping on their own than to seek grief counseling. Yet many reach out to a grief counselor or a bereavement support program, participating in groups, memorial events and related activities. In seeking support they learn about the grief process and how to help themselves cope with the major life changes that acccompany significant loss through death. Any grief counselor can readily cite examples of individuals who feel their grief experience has dramatically changed because of their contact with a grief counselor or a bereavement support program. They are grateful for the opportunity to learn about grief and how it affects them physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. They enjoy talking about their personal grief experiences, meeting with others who have had a similar loss, and developing specific strategies, supports and resources to help them cope. They also receive reassurance that they will get through this difficult time and be able to find new meaning and purpose in life.

Bonanno's subjective bias against the field of grief counseling is also reflected in his unsubstantiated claim (p. 105) that a "global `one-size'-fits-all approach to grief counseling" is common practice. This is in sharp contrast to the Medicare Conditions of Participation (which I suspect Bonanno is unfamiliar with) mandating that bereavement counselors in the thousands of hospice bereavement programs throughout the country individualize every plan of care for each individual they work with.

Bonanno also uses the words counseling and therapy interchangeably, which I interpret as his inability to distinguish between the two. He claims, once again without scientific basis, that "this kind of misuse of therapy has, unfortunately, become something of a common practice in the aftermath of collective traumatic events" (p. 105) and then equates critical incident stress debriefing with therapy. As a trainer and practictioner in the approach of critical incident stress management, his misunderstanding about this field is readily apparent. Grief counseling is not the same as grief therapy, and grief therapy is not the same as crisis intervention. Bonanno fills three pages of his book with inaccurate information about critical incident stress management debriefings. Our efforts to help bereaved individuals are not perfect, and we should constantly assess their efficacy as we continue to provide help to those who seek us out for education, support, and affirmation. They will in fact heal and go on to lead meaningful and productive lives that, in the days and weeks after a signficant loss,in ways they perhaps can not initially fathom. Patti Anewalt, PhD, LPC, FT -- Grief Counselor and Critical Incident Stress Management Responder
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what I needed, July 22, 2011
This review is from: The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss (Hardcover)
This book was like a breath of fresh air to me. None of the other books about grief and bereavement that I looked at reflected my personal experience. It seems the vast majority of books on this subject talk about how people who have lost a child spend months not being able to function and experience years of torment and deep grief. Yes, losing my son was the worst experience of my life, but I could not simply curl up in a ball in the corner. Life goes on. I have other family members who need me, animals that depend on me, a job... This book let me know that I am not "weird" and in fact, the majority of people react to the loss of a loved one in much the same way I did. What a relief!

The bulk of this book is made up of summaries of scientific research about grief, with individual case studies sprinkled throughout to put a personal face on the research. Shorter sections provide information on grief rituals of other countries, with a strong emphasis on China. In addition, the author's story of how he dealt with the death of his father is woven into the book. The book is well written, readable, and interesting.

Who should read this book? Well, most of us are going to, or already have, experienced the loss of a loved one, so I think this book could be of interest and helpful to nearly everyone. I especially recommend this to those who have already lost someone, discovered that they are one of those "resilient" people, and have been made to feel a bit defensive about it by people who think they aren't grieving "properly."

Finally, I want to say a word about the negative reviews that have been posted here. I feel that most of them misrepresent the content of this book and I question whether some of these reviewers actually read the whole book and not just the product description or book jacket.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WORST grief book ever, August 12, 2012
By 
WDEJ's Mom (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
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I've read many many books on grief and bereavement, I like to expand my knowledge and way of thinking. The title and description lead me to think it sounded very interesting and I was excited when I purchased it...

With every page I read, I became more and more irritated with this author's complete disregard for compassion of others. I wasn't expecting a mushy book about feelings, but I was also not expecting a book that condemns those who grieve.

His version of "science" is incredibly skewed, I don't even know where to start and the fact that he's been working in the field of bereavement for 20+ years is shocking considering his attitude towards it and comparing others significant and deeply felt losses of loved ones to his father's death whom he wasn't close with. Constantly referring to those who are able to "forget" loved ones and "get over it" (actual words used in this book, insert horrified gasps here!) as "resilient" and those who are unable to as abnormal is just ridiculous. He even tries to dismiss the death of a child by acknowledging one of his study participants (out of supposedly hundreds) whose daughter was killed in the 9/11 attacks - he interviewed her 3 months after the death of her daughter and quoted her as "happy", "over it", and how she is a model for how we all should be and that she is proof that the death of a child is not the worst thing in the world (something he admits irritates him to hear). He tries to disprove (unsuccessfully I might add) that people go into a state of shock after a trauma and goes back to talking about the resilient ones who supposedly don't.

Well, let me tell ya. Two of my sons have died and among all the other deaths of loved ones I've experienced to a wide array of deaths (from suicide to accidents to murder to natural causes), the death of a child is like none of them. 3 months after their deaths in 2006 and 2011, I was also back at work and functioning pretty well, but looking back on that time, I was in a complete fog just going through the motions because I had no other choice. I don't remember much of that time. I was still in shock and the fact that my children were really gone forever had not completely hit me until around 6 months to 1 year later. I run a support group for bereaved mothers and what I experienced is fairly typical - it's true, what this woman experienced could be very accurate for her feelings 3 months out, but he never does talk about interviewing her at a later date (just a "years later" reference) and wraps it up like it's no big deal and after 3 months, we should forget any loved ones that have died and move on. Again, setting himself up for a an oxymoron - he says grief doesn't have a timetable, but if you're not "over it" quickly, you're doing it wrong/taking too long.

I had to put it down and stop reading it. This author is doing nothing but trying to close off the grievers and continue to try to stigmatize it, setting us back in time.

I am so shocked by how much this book upset me - I'm able to read many different viewpoints and especially accept that all people grieve differently. But I just cannot handle/condone a book that says we shouldn't judge those who are resilient enough to "get over it", but then in the same paragraph condemns those who outwardly grieve or seek support in their grief.

Just a terrible grief book and as a book lover, the thought of a book burning has always really bothered me....however... with this book, I would make an exception and would be the one holding the match. It's really that bad.

It IS possible to live a full life after the tragic deaths of loved ones, I know this, I've lived it, but this book...was not what I thought it was going to be and I am very disappointed that the description did not truly match the book. It's presented as an uplifting book about healing when it's just not.

*** Update ***
I contacted amazon's customer service about how disappointed I was in the book and wanted a refund, even though it was past the 7 day kindle return policy. Within 12 hours, I had a very nice response apologizing for my disappointment and I was also able to return it for a refund. Very happy with amazon.com's customer service.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sound science from an eminent researcher, January 26, 2010
This review is from: The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss (Hardcover)
As a researcher on grief, a clinical psychologist, and a collaborator of George Bonanno, I wanted to respond to a few of the negative reviews here, which are full of stark inaccuracies and perpetuate some of the same myths Professor Bonanno's book debunks.

The first inaccuracy is that the book is insensitive to grievers. Nowhere in the book does he suggest that people in pain after a loss "are not resilient enough." He makes abundantly clear that there are many types of grief reactions, ranging from resilience to more prolonged and intractable types of grief. The book is wholly sensitive to the pain of loss, and Bonanno describes at great length his own complicated reaction to his father's death. The charge that he seeks to "discredit and stigmatize individuals and organizations dedicated to providing support for bereaved persons" is equally without merit. What he seeks to emphasize is that therapy should not be seen as an unvarnished good that bestows benefits on all who receive it. Rather, therapy is an active ingredient, one that should be delivered to those in need, for the same reason that blood pressure medication should only be given to those with high blood pressure. People who display resilience should be allowed to let their own naturally recovery processes move forward unimpeded. However, as he repeatedly states, for those with more prolonged and complicated grief reactions, therapy is absolutely of benefit.

In relation to grief therapy, one reviewer claimed that the American Psychological Association had come out against the "theme" of Bonanno's book. This claim is also mystifying (the press release came out 2 years before the book) and utterly false. This press release was not a statement on behalf of the APA but a way to publicize a recent article in an APA journal claiming to refute recent claims that grief therapy is ineffective. Alas, this article, by Dale Larson, has been a topic of considerable scholarly debate. However, that debate has now become moot, because an authoritative meta-analysis published in 2008 in the journal Psychological Bulletin, one of the most prestigious in all of psychology, has rendered this judgment: "The overall results from this review demonstrate that bereavement interventions have a small but statistically significant effect immediately following intervention but that therapeutic outcomes failed to differ reliably from zero at later follow-up assessments." Moreover, grief interventions produced markedly smaller effects than is usually observed in psychotherapy. As the authors note, "These results contrast with meta-analytic reviews of general psychotherapy demonstrating that treatments help substantially to ameliorate distress symptoms and to improve functioning." The key finding in this review, however, is that studies that targeted grievers with high levels of distress achieved much better results. This reinforces Bonanno's point about resilience, and does so using science of the first order, not anecdote.

As far as the role of science in Bonanno's book, the contention of one negative reviewer that Professor Bonanno uses "anecdote and fuzzy research" to support his claims makes clear to me that the writer knows very little about Bonanno's work. Bonanno's research is of the highest methodological quality. Indeed, he is the most widely published and eminent bereavement scholar in the world today. His work has appeared in every major psychological journal. One of his major articles has been cited almost 500 times by other scholars.

Finally, there is the question of critical incident stress debriefing (CISD), a prophylactic approach to preventing trauma reactions following disaster and other traumatic events. One of the reviewers here, Patricia Anewalt, is a practitioner of CISD and is outspoken in criticizing Bonanno for condemning it. What do other scholars have to say about CISD? After conducting a meta-analysis, the most powerful scientific method for summarizing a body of literature, Rose et al (2001) drew this conclusion about CISD: "there is no current evidence that psychological debriefing is a useful treatment for the prevention of post traumatic stress disorder after traumatic incidents. Compulsory debriefing of victims of trauma should cease" (pp. 1-2). Even more damning is a methodologically rigorous study of accident survivors in the British Journal of Psychiatry (Mayou et al., 2000). The authors found that psychological debriefing resulted in "significantly worse outcomes at 3 years in terms in terms of general psychiatric symptoms (BSI), travel anxiety when being a passenger, pain, physical problems, overall level of functioning, and financial problems" when compared to those who received no debriefing. Indeed, trauma researchers and scientists are virtually unanimous in their view that CISD is contrainidicated. Lillienfeld (2007), in his review of psychological treatments with the potential for harm, highlighted CISD as just such a treatment.

I would note that all of the articles mentioned here come from highly respected peer reviewed journals, the same ones that Bonanno himself has published in many times.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Response to "The Opposite of I couldn't Put it Down", January 15, 2010
This review is from: The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss (Hardcover)
As a Clinical Psychologist who fundamentally believes that research must necessarily impact how we practice our clinical work, I am disturbed by this commenter's review. The commenter dismisses all of the widely-cited and well-validated research that Dr. Bonanno cites in favor of, it appears, not losing any potential clients. I am concerned about where we are as practitioners in this field when a body of studies detailing how the intervention, critical incident debriefing, has been shown to be harmful, is so easily dismissed, due to this commenter's own justification of her chosen area of work. The process of cognitive dissonance comes into play when therapists and practitioners unwilling to read research studies must justify their work as helping, rather than harming their patients. To other practitioners, I advocate reading the research studies that Dr. Bonanno cites and being ethically committed to treating their patients with interventions which have been empirically supported. To other readers, I recommend reading this highly engaging, well-researched book and deciding for yourselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource with a positive message, May 4, 2013
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I come to this book from 2 directions, personal and professional. I have been a nurse for several decades and have had experience being with those who are suffering and I now teach nursing students about grief. I have also lost a young son as well as a beloved husband. Years ago when I sat with a mother whose 4 year old son was dying, I said to her, "You will survive this and feel joy again, not today, not today, but someday. You will never forget Jimmy, and stop missing him but you will survive" (I have no idea where these words came from, since I was very young and inexperienced, but the did come from somewhere deep within me) She burst into tears and said "I needed so badly to hear that" When my son died, someone else used similar words, and I cherished them. People who are grieving need acceptance for their grieving process AND a vision that they can survive the grief. George Bonnano provides a scientific knowledge for this belief. This book shows that grief is a part of life. I would not give this book to someone in the throws of grief, but I think it would be extremely helpful to those supporting the grieving. I would also recommend "Saturday Night Widows" to those involved with working with widows
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read the negative reviews skeptically, July 24, 2014
By 
booklover (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
Having read all the unfavorable (one-star) reviews, I continue to find most of the book persuasive and illuminating, not to mention consistent with my experience of several losses in my immediate family.

I would agree that it's hard to judge the quality of the underlying studies Bonanno cites without reading them, but the quality of his discussion suggests that he knows what he's talking about. By contrast, most of the one-star reviews don't seem to reflect thoughtful consideration of what the book actually says - and doesn't say - much less to address actual scientific or methodological issues as opposed to giving emotional - or perhaps even vested-interest - reactions to misperceptions or distortions of what Bonanno is saying. Or so it seems to me.

For a more extensive and substantive response to the negative reviews, and in particular to vigorous assertions made by a "grief counselor and critical incident stress management responder," I recommend the five-star review by Anthony Mancini, one of Bonanno's collaborators.
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