Dr Mary-Frances O’Connor

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Published December 2, 2022 in

Ep. 100 Dr Mary-Frances O’Connor on Grieving as a Learning Process, The Grieving Brain

Episode 100

I have been following the research of Dr Mary-Frances O’Connor for almost a decade now, so I was absolutely delighted when she published her book ‘The Grieving Brain’ last year. I am always hungry to learn about grief and specifically, what can the science tell us about how to make sure we are supporting the bereaved in the most compassionate and effective way possible. This book affirmed a lot of what I experience in clinical practice and also taught me more about the grieving process.

Loss of a loved one is something everyone experiences, and for as long as humans have existed, we have struggled when a loved one dies. Poets and playwrights have written about the dark cloak of grief, the deep yearning, and devastating heartache of loss. But until now, we have had little scientific perspective on this universal experience. In THE GRIEVING BRAIN: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss (HarperOne; February 1, 2022; Hardcover) renowned grief expert, neuroscientist, and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, Ph.D., shares groundbreaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning.

In The Grieving Brain, O’Connor, who has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, reveals a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. She makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, and how to imagine a future that encompasses their absence. Significantly, O’Connor debunks Kubler-Ross’ enduring idea of the “Five Stages of Grief” and sets a new paradigm for understanding grief on a neurological level.

Based on O’Connor’s own trailblazing neuroimaging work, research in the field, and real-life stories, The Grieving Brain brings together accessible science and practical knowledge that provides a more nuanced understanding of what happens when we grieve and how to navigate loss with more ease and grace.

The Grieving Brain addresses

  • Why it’s so hard to understand that a loved one has died and is gone forever
  • Why grief causes so many emotions—sadness, anger, blame, guilt, and yearning
  • Why grieving takes so long
  • What happens in the brain during grief
  • The distinction between grief and complicated grief
  • Why we ruminate so much after we lose a loved one
  • How we go about restoring a meaningful life while grieving.

Ground-breaking, fascinating and accessible, The Grieving Brain is essential reading for everyone who’s lost someone and for anyone looking for a way to heal.

About the Author

Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, where she directs the Grief, Loss and Social Stress (GLASS) Lab, which investigates the effects of grief on the brain and the body. O’Connor earned a doctorate from the University of Arizona in 2004 and completed a fellowship at UCLA. Following a faculty appointment at UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, she returned to the University of Arizona in 2012. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and Psychological Science, and featured in Newsweek, the New York Times, and The Washington Post. Having grown up in Montana, she now lives in Tucson, Arizona. For more information go to www.maryfrancesoconnor.com

The Grieving Brain

The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss
By Mary-Frances O’Connor
HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Hardcover | ISBN: 9780062946232

Twitter: @doctormfo
FaceBook: @maryfranceso
Instagram: @doctormfoconnor
LinkedIn: Mary-Frances O’Connor

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