The Grieving Brain: Love, Loss, and Healing with Mary-Frances O’Connor Ph.D. & Daniel Shapiro JD

Original Air Date Wednesday, February 16, 2022 

Losing people we love is a universal human experience.

Yet, how we deal with the loss, and grieving comes in different forms for each individual and often it is an extension of the love we felt for the departed. Some may take solace in the company of others to help them cope while others grieve for years in solitude. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no specific length of time it takes for grief to wane. Neuroscience shows that our brains change during grief and after certain treatments for complicated grief, post-traumatic growth can be achieved. To discover ways to restore a meaningful life after a loss, Positive Psychology Podcast Host Lisa Cypers Kamen speaks with two authors who have books that focus on loss and grief. Mary-Frances O’Connor explains the findings from her book, The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss and Daniel Shapiro recounts his experience with loss and the lessons he extracted from his grief.

Mary-Frances O’Connor — Healing the Grieving Brain:

  • Why it is difficult for humans to process the universal experience that is death. [1:59]
  • The differences between trauma and grief and loss in our brains. [5:09]
  • Grief feels different for different losses because grief is an extension of the love we felt for the individual. [8:19]
  • Signs an individual has moved from grief into Prolonged Grief Disorder. [17:57]
  • Mary-Frances explains how the brain changes during grief and the different treatments used when working with complicated grief. [23:10]
  • Restoring a normative life after grief is different for everyone. [27:44]

woman with white pants and glasses, guest of new podcast about grief, love, loss, and heal with Mary-Frances O’Connor Ph.D. & Daniel Shapiro JDMary-Frances O’Connor, Ph.D. 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. O’Connor earned a doctorate from the University of Arizona in 2004 and completed a fellowship at UCLA. Following a faculty appointment at UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, she returned to the University of Arizona in 2012. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and Psychological Science, and featured in Newsweek, the New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Book: The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss


Mary-Frances O’Connor
@doctormfo on Twitter

Daniel Shapiro — Love, Loss, and Healing:

  • Daniel shares an intimate account of his family’s journey and explains how his book, The Thin Ledge came together. [33:24]
  • For some, grief offers a renewed look at the world and life. [44:39]
  • How spirituality and the moral dimensions of grief can offer empathy and relief to those grieving. [49:03]
  • Insights gleaned from Daniel’s experience have fueled his motivation for future projects. [55:19]

Man with gray jacket and gray hair, guest of new podcast about grief, love, loss, and heal with Mary-Frances O’Connor Ph.D. & Daniel Shapiro JDDan Shapiro is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Brain Research Foundation, a foundation that exists to accelerate discoveries of the human brain by funding pioneering neuroscience research. A graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and lifelong Chicagoan, he has practiced trial law nationally for many years. He enjoys spending his time reading and hanging out with his grown children.

Book: The Thin Ledge: A Husband’s Memoir of Love, Trauma, and Unexpected Circumstances



Daniel P. Shapiro
Daniel P. Shapiro on Facebook
@dpshapiro on Instagram

This podcast episode about health & happiness is sponsored by:

Redecor — is a home design app and a mobile game in one that is fun and inspiring to play. It is a mindfully creative outlet that lets your imagination run wild. Design room after room. Redecor is also an interactive platform to connect with others to share your passion for home decor. Enter your designs in challenges and let other players be the judge. Download Redecor for free on the App Store or Google Play Store. 

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Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life A boot camp manual for greater emotional fitness. Happiness waits for no one and sometimes we all need support. What is getting in the way of your happiness right now? 

HFactor: Where is Your Heart? — Lisa’s documentary film that explores the journey of human happiness. Emotions are contagious and happiness is a universally desired state. We tend to forget we all have the freedom to be happy or the liberty to be miserable each day.

“The brain's response to trauma is different than the brain's response to the loss of a loved one.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Grief causes a stew of emotions running the gamut from sadness and despair to anger and rage.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Most of us who experience loss, at some point will return back to the pre-loss state of engagement in the world.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“When we bond with someone all of the neurochemistry of our brain motivates us to seek them out and spend time with them.” @doctormfo on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Grief is distinct from trauma.” @doctormfo on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“When we bond with someone it creates permanent neurobiological changes in our brains.” @doctormfo on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Grief is frequently what people are not expecting it to be like.” @doctormfo on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“The inability to function in a resilient way is where we start to think this is becoming something that could use intervention.” @doctormfo on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“It's not that we don't expect grieving to change you, we just want you to also like the person you've changed into.” @doctormfo on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“My thought was that if I don't write an intimate version of this story there wouldn't be much point in writing the book.” @dpshapiro on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“There is almost a magical transformation from adversity to a deeper appreciation, post-diversity, of happiness. It's a weird thing.” @dpshapiro on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“One doesn't entirely get over the loss of a loved one but the role the loss plays changes.” @dpshapiro on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Not everyone we are connected to makes our life better. There are situations where an ex-spouse dies or an alcoholic who made your life difficult dies and that leads to its own set of complicated, confusing experiences of grief.”… Click To Tweet




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