Reviews | Prolonged grief: a mental disorder or a natural process?

I’ve had grief (over a year), I’ve interviewed dozens of mourners, and I’ve written about grief, and what strikes me as abnormal isn’t extended grief beyond the one-year prescription of APA, but the degree of chutzpah required, notwithstanding vocational training, presume to set time limits for the Ordinary the mourning of others, which is in fact as varied as the mourners themselves.

Martha Weinman Lear
new York
The writer, who previously worked for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of “Heartsounds: The Story of a Love and Loss.”

For the editor:

I have specialized in grief over the past 40 years as a practicing psychologist. With respect to the new DSM-5 diagnosis of prolonged grief, I welcome the new options for help that this diagnosis opens up. I am appalled, however, that in our deeply dysfunctional medical model of psychotherapy, the grieving process must be pathologized in order to access treatment funding. This causes sufferers to become suspicious and disavow their painful feelings.

The best way to help overcome prolonged grief is the reverse: to honor these feelings and explore their purpose in the client’s psychological system, in order to find other more effective coping strategies.

Pierre Huntsberger
Seattle

For the editor:

How dare you? How dare you tell me how long I can cry… six months, a year? I agree with psychotherapists who say that grief is not a problem to be solved, but a process to be experienced.

For six months after my husband’s death, anything that reminded me of him made me cry; sometimes I was afraid of never stopping. Very slowly, with the caring support of my family and friends, I started joining them for the occasional dinner or a movie.

It’s been almost two years since he died, and I continue to relive parts of the life I lived with him for almost 40 years. I vacation with my family, attend the opera, have guests at my vacation home, but carefully avoid what I think I’m not ready for because it may be too painful.

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