Based on my own and my patients’ experiences, I now like to say that the story of loss has three “chapters.” Chapter 1 has to do with attachment: the strength of the bond with the person who has been lost. Understanding the relationship between degree of attachment and intensity of grief brings great relief for most patients. I often tell them that the size of their grief corresponds to the depth of their love.
Chapter 2 is the death event itself. This is often the moment when the person experiencing the loss begins to question his sanity, particularly when the death is premature and traumatic. Mary had prided herself on her ability to stay in control in difficult times. The profound emotional chaos of her baby’s death made her feel crazy. As soon as she was able, she resisted the craziness and shut down the natural pain and suffering.
Chapter 3 is the long road that begins after the last casserole dish is picked up — when the outside world stops grieving with you. Mary wanted to reassure her family, friends and herself that she was on the fast track to closure. This was exhausting. What she really needed was to let herself sink into her sadness, accept it.
“All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them,” said the writer Isak Dinesen. When loss is a story, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no pressure to move on. There is no shame in intensity or duration. Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning and all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who died.
Widely-accepted claims about telomeres predicting mortality are contradicted by some quality meta-analyses and large-scale population-based studies.
Predictions of future onset of chronic illnesses from telomere length have not been reproducible in meta-analyses and large-scale population-based studies.
Even when found, the associations in large scale, quality studies between telomere length and outcomes like disease onset and mortality are quite modest.
Associations claimed between exposure to stress and telomere length have not been reproducible in large scale studies.
Cross-sectional associations of telomere length are often not borne out in prospective longitudinal studies.
Telomere length is reliably associated with age, sex, and race. The association between telomere length and clinical variables is reduced or disappears when age is statistically controlled for in large scale studies. Older people have shorter telomeres than younger people, and males have shorter telomeres than females. This corresponds to life expectancy. But wait, whites have shorter telomeres than nonwhites. So, they die earlier? No, of course not, and this robust association needs to be ignored if anyone wants to claim consistency of findings about telomere length and aging.
Lichtenberg Figures: A. R. von Hippel, 1951 by Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) Photographic enlargement on particleboard Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries Click image for larger view.
“(Lion) fell in love in his tenth year with a boy named Schmidt (best pupil in the school), the son of a tailor, liked to hear him talked about and got all the boys to converse with him, never spoke to him himself but it gave him great pleasure to hear that the boy had spoken of him. Climbed up on a wall after school to see him go out of school. Now he still remembers his physiognomy very clearly, and he was far from handsome, a turned-up nose and red cheeks. But he was first in school. I should be sorry if by this free confession I should increase the world’s mistrust, but I was a human being and if happiness is ever to be attained in this world it must not be sought through concealment, not at all, nothing firm can come about in that way. Lasting happiness is to be found only in uprightness and sincerity…” From The Waste Books, translated by R. J. Hollingdale
“Lion” is one of the names Lichtenberg adopted when he wrote about himself in the third person, i.e. objectively.
A Crane by Ogata Korin, 1658-1716. Ink and color on paper (Edo period). | Click image for larger view.