Grief, alienation, and the absolute alterity of death

Emily Hughes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Disturbances to one's sense of self, the feeling that one has ‘lost a part of oneself’ or that one ‘no longer feels like oneself,’ are frequently recounted throughout the bereavement literature. Engaging Allan Køster's important contribution to this issue, this article reinforces his suggestion that, by rupturing the existential texture of self-familiarity, bereavement can result in experiences of estrangement that can be meaningfully understood according to the concept of self-alienation. Nevertheless, I suggest that whilst Køster's relational interpretation of alienation as the withdrawal of heteronomy can be applied to the experience of world-collapse in bereavement, what sets bereavement apart from other limit situations is the fact that it involves an intersubjective relation between the living and the dead. In contrast to Køster, therefore, I suggest that the experience of self-alienation that is distinctive to bereavement results from the fact that the bereaved is exposed to, and co-opted by, the absolute alterity of death itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-65
Number of pages5
JournalPhilosophical Explorations
Issue number1
Early online date31 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - UKRI: [Grant Number AH/T000066/1]. I am grateful to my project team Matthew Ratcliffe, Louise Richardson and Becky Millar.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • alienation
  • alterity
  • Bereavement
  • death
  • grief
  • phenomenology

Cite this