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The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss Hardcover – January 4, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439148333
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439148334
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran journalist Konigsberg offers a spot-on critique of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's seminal theory--the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This "staged" approach "prioritizes negative emotions over any positive ones that might occur, say, from a happy memory of the deceased." Konigsberg also looks at various scientific studies on how people cope with grief, noting, "On average, those who got help experienced no less distress nor recovered more quickly than those who didn't." She maintains that people cope with grief thanks largely to the human capacity for resilience, relying heavily on the work of psychologist George Bonanno, though Konigsberg acknowledges that this isn't the case for those who experience the intractable grief that Freud called "melancholia." Konigsberg makes few distinctions among different mourning situations and among various therapeutic approaches (e.g., individual versus group treatment; long- versus short-term counseling; cognitive-behavioral versus psychodynamic treatment). In general, she has researched her subject, writes clearly and engagingly, and uncovers a host of interesting facts. Despite a few conceptual flaws, this book is well worth reading. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


“This hopeful book upends old ideas and emphasizes resilience.”

“A liberating message: there’s no ‘right’ way to respond to a loss.”

The Truth About Grief challenges the received wisdom about how and why we grieve and, through healthy skepticism and admirable research, brings us to a more hopeful place.”
—Judith Warner, author of We've Got Issues and Perfect Madness

“Konigsberg’s challenge to the orthodoxy surrounding death is both profound and urgent. This is one of those books that will change you forever, altering—for the better—your perspective on one of life’s most essential, inevitable tasks: grieving the loss of a loved one.”
—Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter and Schoolgirls

“A pithy review of our grief culture, its wobbly underpinnings and the frequently opportunistic industry that preys upon it.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Veteran journalist Konigsberg offers a spot-on critique of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's seminal theory. . . . [Konigsberg] writes clearly and engagingly, and uncovers a host of interesting facts….this book is well worth reading.”
—Publishers Weekly

"Eminently readable and intelligent."
—Claire Lambrecht, Salon

Related Media

Customer Reviews

This conclusion may hold for many of this specific population but should never be generalized to a majority of people.
The Truth About Grief is a well researched, well written, and important book about how Americans are encouraged by a relatively new "industry" to handle their losses.
Story Circle Book Reviews
I felt like I had been hit in the stomach, just hearing that, but my friend showed great equanimity in her answer: "Yes, I'm sure I will."
K. Phillips

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hoy on February 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Konigsberg's book would have been well-timed if it had only been published 40 years ago in the early years after the publication of what she calls Kubler-Ross' "seminal work." While she is right that the journalism field, of which she is well-known member has kept the "5-stages" alive these four decades, most professionals in the bereavement caregiving field have long-since departed from the theory as anything more than a relic of history.

Even if encountering the theory in training, professional counselors like myself, learn pretty early in our careers working with bereaved people that Kubler-Ross' model is woefully inadequate. The news flash is that it has taken so long for the mainstream media to catch on to what we've all been saying!

Bereavement is a multi-dimmensional and multi-determined phenomenon subject to many, many personal, cultural and spiritual factors, a fact made amply clear by most of the theories published in the first decade after Kubler-Ross' 1969 book. Now that a journalist has said it, perhaps the media will catch up to the current thinking in our field instead of quoting a theory that is more than four decades old!
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54 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I had to pick one book which should be at the top of anyone's list, I confess that one book would be the stellar " The Year of Magical Thinking", a very raw and heartfelt memoir (one noted - and not positively - in "The Truth About Grief.") But I'd still recommend "The Truth About Grief", a very different book which offers a range of perspectives about grief and how it is handled. Taken together, the two books could provide comfort and some measure of relief for the inevitable pain that accompanies deep loss. Readers will have to decide which book resonates most deeply. Also, "The Truth About Grief" explores the way books like "The Year of Magical Thinking" could be unhelpful and lead to prolonged pain for readers - although I disagree. Each person's grief is unique.

Why do I recommend both books? Mainly because "The Year of Magical Thinking" is a memoir where the pain is almost palpable while "The Truth About Grief" explores the various methods and beliefs about how to tackle the very difficult task of grieving a deep loss, with an emphasis on resilience and not falling prey to therapeutic and other methods which may worsen things.. My only reservation about the "The Truth About Grief" is the emphasis on a specific and relatively short stage of mourning as being normal, although the author does note that some feel losses deeply or can end up in an abnormal melancholic state that persists longer than usual. For those who simply grieve for more than a year, the book could make some readers feel abnormal.

While I agree that humans can be far more resilient than they believe, the way one approaches grief is affected by many variables, including personality, background experiences, and the way parents taught children how to handle loss and setbacks.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Julie Ann Wambach on June 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When Ruth Davis Konigsberg called me to discuss an article I published 27 years ago in an academic journal, I found her to be a pleasant professional, asking insightful questions. Imagine my surprise when I read her book, The Truth about Grief, to find she missed the point of the article, who I was, and how my work related to the Widow-to-Widow program. When she noted my reference to "professionals" as an undeserved title for widows acting as group leaders, I realized she had no idea that in the 1980's, there were counselors, psychologist, and social workers, trained in grief counseling, running grief support groups. As I glanced through the rest of her book, I was appalled by her lack of research, lack of integrated ideas, even lack of adequate writing style.

While a competent author could have contributed something important to the study of grief and loss, Davis Konigsberg's book is little more than an exercise in hubris. I join Jennelle and Psychologist, two other reviewers warning this book could be harmful and dangerous. You need not worry about those with expertise in grief, for they will quickly dismiss this work. Be sure, however, that you tell those in grief to stay away.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mary Williams on August 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was disappointed in this book. This author makes sweeping, inaccurate and misleading assumptions with her own "cafeteria style" research surrounding the complex physical, emotional, social, behaviorial, and psychological phenomenon we call grief. Grief is a complex "process" and author claims to let public in on the hidden truth that, "grief isn't all that bad," and that "people get over grief on their own." Yet, this author has yet to experience the death of a significant person in her life. Now, I am not suggesting that those who have experienced loss need to go running into therapy, but I am suggesting that those who have lost loved ones need the care, understanding, and support of those around them for the "long haul." If you are looking to understand your reaction to loss or wanting to help someone else who has experienced the death of a loved one, look elsewhere. This book will confuse you and cause inappropriate expectations. Author needs to go back to writing glamour magazines and leave the science of death and art of death education to ADEC, Universities, Research Institutes, Psychologists, Thanatologists, and Professional Counselors.
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More About the Author

Ruth Davis Konigsberg was born in New York City in 1968. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, she began a career in magazine journalism and worked as an editor for New York and Glamour and has written for publications such as The New York Observer and ELLE, often about psychology. Konigsberg lives in Pelham, NY with her husband and their two children.