The depths of temporal desynchronization in grief

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Introduction: The experience of disconnection is common in first-person accounts of grief. One way in which this feeling of estrangement can manifest is through the splintering apart of the time of the mourner and the time of the world. Supplementing and extending Thomas Fuchs’ influential idea of temporal desynchronization, my aim in this article is to give an account of the heterogenous ways in which grief can disturb time.

Method: I organise these manifold experiences of temporal disruption according to a method of ‘depth analysis’: a phenomenological interpretation of temporal desynchronization that tracks the increasing disconnect between the mourner and the world as it manifests in time. In so doing, I draw on a wide-range of descriptive first-person responses to the question ‘Has your experience of time changed in any way?,’ included as part of an online questionnaire on the emotional experience of grief conducted recently with colleagues at the University of York. I then stratify these according to a mild, moderate and profound level of disruption.

Results: Before setting out the results of this analysis, I give a background account of Fuchs’ interpretation of temporal desynchronization in phenomenological psychopathology more generally and in grief specifically. In my results I then supplement and extend his interpretation by setting out my phenomenological depth analysis of the increasing disconnect between the time of the mourner and the time of the world, as demonstrated by the questionnaire data. As I argue, such a fine-grained account is an important step in understanding the way time can shape the meaning and significance of different grief experiences. Following this, in my discussion I demonstrate how a depth approach might be helpful in differentiating between temporal disturbances in a range of affective disorders and give an illustrative comparison of grief and depression.

Conclusion: In conclusion I reflect briefly on what grief might reveal about the depth and complexity of temporal experience itself. In so doing, I consider how the radical disruptions to time in grief might transform the mourner’s experience of time irreversibly, but in a way that enables a renewed connection to both their deceased loved one and the world from which they have become estranged.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date21 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2022

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  • time
  • desynchronization
  • Grief
  • mourning
  • temporality

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