Mary-Frances O’Connor

Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD. Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Arizona; and director of the Grief, Loss and Social Stress (GLASS) Lab.

Monday, May 15, 2023,


ASA Koffler Great Room and Zoom


When Mary-Frances O’Connor was thirteen years old, her mother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Miraculously, her mother lived another thirteen years. During that time, Mary-Frances became very comfortable with the specter of death and grief, but she didn’t really know much about grief. When she went to a counselor, she said, ‘My mother is dying. What else is there to say?’

The Grieving Brain

It turns out that there is a lot to say about grief, and Dr. O’Connor, a leader in the field of neuroscience, has devoted her entire career to the ‘why’ of grief and grieving. Why does it hurt so much when we lose our loved one? Why is it so devastating? With deep care for people’s experiences of this most sensitive subject, she’ll talk to us about grief through the lenses of both scientist and griever and discuss the difference between grief- the painful feeling we have when we lose a loved one- and grieving- the process of adapting to our grief over time; how the brain forms bonds and how our attachment to our loved one creates a neurological map;  distractions and the dual processes that allow us to both live with grief and restore meaning to our lives. In her own words, Dr. O’Connor hopes that “you may see through a new lens how your brain enables you to carry your loved one with you through the rest of your life.”

MARY-FRANCES O’CONNOR is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, where she directs the Grief, Loss, and Social Stress (GLASS) Lab in investigating the effects of grief on the brain and the body. O’Connor earned a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Arizona in 2004 and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in psychoneuroimmunology at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.  Having grown up in Montana, she now lives in sunny Tucson, Arizona. (O’Connor, Mary-Frances. The Grieving Brain, p. 236)

Compiled and edited by Pamela Hennessy, ASA Volunteer

You can connect to Zoom either by using the following URL: or by opening a browser to and typing in Meeting ID: 954 5651 1620 and Passcode: 85747 

May 15: “The Grieving Brain”