Grief over Non-death Losses: A Phenomenological Perspective

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Grief is often thought of as an emotional response to the death of someone we love. However, the term “grief” is also used when referring to losses of various other kinds, as with grief over illness, injury, unemployment, diminished abilities, relationship breakups, or loss of significant personal possessions. In this paper, we address the question of what, if anything, the relevant experiences have in common. We argue that grief over a bereavement and other experiences of loss share a common phenomenological structure: one experiences the loss of certain possibilities that were integral to—and perhaps central to—the unfolding structure of one’s life. Grief can thus be conceived of in a broad but still univocal way. To develop this position, we focus on the example of grief over involuntary childlessness, where lack of a concrete, historical object of emotion serves to make explicit the way in which grief concerns future possibilities. We go on to suggest that the phenomenological complexity, diversity, and prevalence of grief are obscured when approached via an abstract, simplified conception of bereavement.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPassion: Journal of the European Philosophical Society for the Study of Emotions
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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