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Being Well Podcast: The Grieving Brain with Dr. Mary-Frances O’Connor
July 25, 2022

On today’s episode of Being Well, Forrest is joined by one of the world’s leading researchers on grief, Dr. Mary-Frances O’Connor, to help us better understand grief and grieving. They explore why grief is such a unique and intense emotion, how grief works in the brain, the problems with generalized models like the “five stages of grief,” and how we can learn to live with loss.

There’s a lot of loss in the world these days, both in our individual lives and in our broader communities, and with those losses comes grief. Grief is one of the most challenging emotions to be with, and it can be difficult to offer generalized advice because everyone’s experience of grief is profoundly unique.

About Our Guest: Mary-Frances is a neuroscientist, clinical psychologist, and associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, where she directs the Grief, Loss and Social Stress Lab, which investigates the effects of grief on the brain and the body. She’s also the author of the wonderful book The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss.

Key Topics:

  • 0:00: Introduction and disclaimer
  • 3:35: Mary-Frances’ personal background
  • 6:55: Distinguishing grief from grieving
  • 9:20: Self-criticism and overfocus on recovery
  • 11:20: Changing how we frame grief as something to get over
  • 13:00: Attachment and our neurological map
  • 16:00: Prediction error
  • 19:30: Complicated grief
  • 25:00: Spiritual practice or a worldview that incorporates death
  • 28:05: Is there a ‘normal’ grieving process?
  • 35:25: Pathology and normal human experience
  • 46:00: Neurological overview of grief in the brain
  • 50:40: The Dual Process Model of Grief
  • 54:10: Sometimes distraction is okay
  • 56:15: Therapeutic practices and learning from grief
  • 1:01:00: Grief and its relationship to love
  • 1:03:40: Recap

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