Ep. 342 The Grieving Brain: The Science of Love and Loss with Mary-Frances O’Connor PhD

Learn how the brain changes and learns in response to loss and grief.

My guest Dr. Mary-Frances O’Connor 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. She discusses her book The Grieving Brain that highlights her research on the changes that occur in the brain during the grief process and how we can go about restoring a meaningful life while grieving. Learn more at her website:


Get the book The Grieving Brain

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This episode includes:

  • How the brain has to create a new “map” of reality after a loved one dies
  • Why the second year of grieving might be harder than the first
  • Why understanding the changes taking place in the brain can help us have more compassion for ourselves
  • How funeral rituals can be helpful for accepting the new reality that the brain must grasp
  • The difference between grief and grieving
  • How grief changes who you are and how you live in the world
  • Why guilt is a common emotion after a death
  • What is “complicated grief”
  • Why the experience of loss will continue to arise for us over and over again throughout life
  • What is the feeling of “yearning” and how does the brain contribute to it
  • Social connectedness is one of the most important coping skills for grieving
  • How to create an emotional “toolkit” that can help us cope with loss and grief (flexibility, presence, trying new experiences)
  • How grief can unite us and connect us with all of humanity

Links mentioned in this episode:

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