This philosopher claims: By grieving well, you get to know yourself

“If one of us dies,” said a man to his wife, “I shall live in Paris.” This joke reminded me of Michael Cholbi’s book on grief, because how do we really fill or understand the period after the death of a loved one, friend, neighbor or idol? I mean, if we don’t go to Paris?

complaint. A Philosophical Guide is not a self-help book and not a psychological treatise. It is a philosophical analysis of what exactly grief is, how such a process is experienced, and what or whom it focuses on. Of course, you think to this last question, it is about the death of those close to you. However, it is not that simple, because an intimate relationship with the deceased is not a sufficient condition. We can also mourn a prematurely terminated pregnancy or the death of a public figure. And even for someone we hated in life.

Many ancient philosophers rejected mourning the death of a neighbor or friend. On his deathbed, Socrates is quite pleased with the grief of his disciples. Se-neca said: ‘Let not our eyes remain dry when we lose a friend, but neither let them overflow. We can cry, but we must not wail.’ And the Chinese philosopher Zuangzi saw sorrow primarily as a result of ignorance.

Cholbi is noticeably more positive and does not want to reduce grief to meaningless suffering. According to him, the object of grief is not the other, it is one’s own relationship with the deceased. It is not a question of detaching oneself from the other, but of reshaping the relationship changed by death. Because of the death of the other, I also change myself: going through this relationship makes me a different person. Good grief is therefore ultimately the acquisition of self-knowledge.

Seen in this way, it becomes a manifestation of ‘human nature in full bloom’: not so much a wound as a path to personal freedom and autonomy and even creativity, because the death of the other forces us not only to raise ourselves again. , but at the same time anew. to invent. It sounds a bit too cheerful and also insensitive to those who have lost a loved one. However, Cholbi has an eye for the pain of loss and the suffering of those left in despair.

Meanwhile, in his clear analyses, one sometimes misses a feeling for the ambivalence of human life, especially in the field of literature. It is not without reason that he puts an end to the most famous work on grief in the Western tradition, Shakespeare’s Hamlet just short. Once to show how despair can lead to suicide and once to illustrate that grieving escalating madness is often mistakenly associated with women, where, for example, Ophelia drowns after her father’s death.

The object of grief is not the other, but one’s own relationship with the deceased

In the classic stay, brilliant Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes (1930), the American scholar Lily B. Campbell once outlined how systematically and comprehensively Shakespeare treats the phenomenon in his Tragedy of Grief. Hamlet remains passive, while grief, according to Cholbi, requires active action. He descends into melancholy and madness, while a minor character, the Norwegian prince Fortinbras, avenges his also murdered father by conquering a piece of land. It is not for nothing that this minor character calls the shots in the final scene among the dead around him.

Deathbed scenes

Hamlet’s mother ignores any grief and marries her murderer Claudius immediately after her husband’s murder. “The meat of the funeral supper,” laments Hamlet bitterly, “could be served cold weather on wedding tables.” The one who remarries, says Cholbi at the end of his book, should not replace the former partner, but changes his own life through self-awareness, thanks to the changing relationship with the dead. This does not seem to be the case with Hamlet’s mother.

so had complaint benefit from the depiction and analysis of grief in literature. And also with deathbed scenes or laments from relatives in the visual arts or with the discussion of Mahler Children’s tote leader. Nevertheless, it is a versatile and original book for those who are not intimidated by Anglo-Saxon philosophy, which focuses more on argumentation than on understanding. The argument sharpens your own intuitions and feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. Is mourning a duty to ourselves and not to the dead because one cannot have a ‘direct’ moral obligation to a dead person?

Cholbi’s argument against medicalization is strong: after all, it is not about a disease. Of course, depression and other mental disorders are eligible for therapeutic help, but symptoms of grief should remain outside the Diagnostic Manual of Psychiatry (DSM-5). They are part of normal life, and many grieving relatives would like to have less grief and yet would likely reject a pill that removed all grief symptoms.

In that sense, the author also rejects Kübler-Ross’ famous model of grief, with its five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Then the grief becomes too much of an affliction that you want to get rid of, instead of giving your changed relationship with the neighbor, admirer or loved one a place in a life that is ultimately enriched by it.

Also read: What do you do when life seems sad? This philosopher shows how great artists overcame their infernal periods

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