Grief Recovery and Resilience Research

Recent research suggests that the human sense of resilience is stronger than previously thought. In a New York Times article called “Grief, Unedited,” research headed by George Bonanno from Teachers College, Columbia shows that people who lose spouses late in life recover more quickly from grief than is popularly thought. In most cases cited in the study, elderly widows and widowers mostly showed recovery from grief within six months of the loss of their spouse. This information speaks volumes for the human capacity for resilience and does not imply that humans are colder than previously thought: widows and widowers that move past their grief do not stop missing their deceased partner, but simply return to normal. It’s an inspiring thought that people can move on and reclaim their lives.

There’s common ground between this research and some articles about the resilience of 9/11 victims in New York. Like the widows and widowers study, surveys of New York residents who were in the city on September 11, 2001 show that they also recovered from the trauma at a higher rate than one might intuitively expect. Even around two thirds of those who were near the World Trade Center showed a high recovery rate and return to normalcy after just six months. This shows that the human spirit is remarkably strong, and stories about victims of tragedies regaining their mental and emotional health is very inspiring.

Here is some interesting further reading on resilience:

  1. The Other Side of Sadness by George A. Bonanno – This is the research cited in the article. Detailed examinations of both statistical and anecdotal evidence suggesting the human spirit is more resilient than most people think.
  2. 9/11 Resilience Study – This study demonstrates that even in the case of such an extreme and jarring tragedy as 9/11, victims are capable of bouncing back from PTSD very quickly. The study was conducted shortly after the 2001 attacks so promising results are discussed with some skepticism, but the more recent research seems to confirm the optimistic tone.
  3. “Grief: The Journey From Suffering to Resilience” by William F. Doverspike, Ph.D. – This is a more cautious guide to avoiding the pitfalls of chronic grief and developing resilience.

Despite the public’s assumptions regarding our respective responses to trauma, even people who receive minimal counseling have demonstrated an admirable and inspiring level of resilience. Now we know that people possess an amazing ability to adapt and thrive.

What do you think?

JS

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