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Opinion | Prolonged Grief: A Mental Disorder, or a Natural Process?

I have had grief (longer than a year), have interviewed scores of people in grief, and have written about grief, and what strikes me as abnormal is not grief prolonged beyond the A.P.A.’s one-year prescription, but the degree of chutzpah required, professional training notwithstanding, to presume to set timelines for the normal grief of others, which in fact is as various as the grievers themselves.

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

To the Editor:

I have specialized in grief over the past 40 years as a practicing psychologist. Regarding the D.S.M.-5’s new prolonged grief diagnosis, I rejoice at the new options for help that this diagnosis opens up. I am dismayed, though, that in our profoundly dysfunctional medical model of psychotherapy, the grief process must be pathologized in order to access treatment funding. This causes sufferers to distrust and disavow their painful feelings.

The best way to help with prolonged grief is the opposite: to honor these feelings and explore what purpose is served by them in the client’s psychological system, in order to find other, better coping strategies.

Peter Hunsberger

To the Editor:

How dare you? How dare you tell me how long I may grieve … six months, one year? I concur with the psychotherapists who say that grief is not a problem to be solved, but a process to be lived through.

For six months after my husband passed away everything that reminded me of him caused me to cry; sometimes I was afraid that I would never stop. Very slowly, with the caring support of my family and friends, I began to join them for an occasional dinner or a movie.

It’s been almost two years since he passed away, and I continue to resume parts of the life that I spent with him for almost 40 years. I spend holidays with my family, attend the opera, have houseguests at my vacation home, but I cautiously avoid what I think I’m not ready for because it may be too painful.

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