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Loss of a loved one is something everyone experiences, and for as long as humans have existed, we have struggled when a loved one dies. Poets and playwrights have written about the dark cloak of grief, the deep yearning, and devastating heartache of loss. But until now, we have had little scientific perspective on this universal experience. In THE GRIEVING BRAIN: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss, renowned grief expert, neuroscientist, psychologist, and the first recipient of The Friends of Semel/Drown Foundation Scholar Award in 2006, Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, shares groundbreaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning.


In The Grieving Brain, Dr. O’Connor, who has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, reveals a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. She makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, and how to imagine a future that encompasses their absence. Significantly, O’Connor debunks Kubler-Ross’ enduring idea of the “Five Stages of Grief” and sets a new paradigm for understanding grief on a neurological level.


Based on O’Connor’s own trailblazing neuroimaging work, research in the field, and real-life stories, The Grieving Brain brings together accessible science and practical knowledge that provides a more nuanced understanding of what happens when we grieve and how to navigate loss with more ease and grace.

Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD 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. Having grown up in Montana, she now lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Brenda Bursch will join Dr. O'Connor in discussion. Dr. Bursch is a medical psychologist and a professor in the UCLA departments of both Psychiatry and Pediatrics. She spent 30 years working with medically ill youth hospitalized in Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. In recent years, she has been working to embed medical psychologists into many of the UCLA subspecialty pediatric medical clinics.

The Grieving Brain

The Grieving Brain

Mary-Frances OConnor, PhD with ​Dr. Brenda Bursch
Thursday, February 9, 2023
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM PT
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