The grief we feel when someone close to us dies is characterized by a complex and profound experience of loss. But what is this experience? In Grief Worlds: A Study of Emotional Experience (MIT Press, 2022), Matthew Ratcliffe articulates a common structure to grief experiences even while emphasizing that each person’s experience is highly individual. In his account, we live in experiential worlds structured by valued possibilities and anticipations that are integral to our identities as persons, and in grief we experience a disruption or undermining of these networks of significant possibilities and anticipations. His analysis draws on personal testimonies of grief experiences gathered in a public survey along with philosophical work from analytic and phenomenological traditions. Ratcliffe, who is professor of philosophy at the University of York, also examines the bodily phenomenology of grief, the ways we transition to post-bereavement worlds, and the ways in which continuing bonds with the deceased, and the pre-bereavement world, can be adaptive.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.