Ruth Davis Konigsberg's new book seeks to debunk the theory that there are five stages of grief, first coined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Josh Rothman explains:

Kubler-Ross's stages entered the national consciousness in 1969, when she published a book called On Death and Dying. Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist at Billings Hospital in Chicago, was as surprised as anyone when her book became a bestseller. In fact, On Death and Dying wasn't about grief per se, but instead about dying patients, and about the experience of dying "in a society bent on ignoring or avoiding death." Her central argument was that a terminally ill patient needed to be told the truth about his condition in a timely way, so that he could "work through his own grief and show his family by his example how one can die with equanimity." Working through one's own grief about one's own death involved the now-famous five stages.

Paul Wilner reviews Konigsberg's book, The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss:

“Instead of rushing about to find the  healthiest way to grieve, it would be more helpful to update ourselves on what little science that has been conducted in this area tells us: that most people are resilient enough to get through loss and reach an acceptable stage of adjustment on their own,’’ [Konigsberg] writes. “A smaller minority will have a much harder time of it, and clinicians should focus their efforts on tailoring interventions for this group that are based on evidence, not myth.’’

That might be bad news for the grieving industry, but could be a big relief – and a welcome respite from a guilt trip – for the rest of us.

More information can be found on her website, The Truth About Grief.

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