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Is mourning possible? Or impossible? And if impossible, in what sense impossible? What does this mean, in turn, for what we do as human beings in the face of the normal, natural experience of mourning the death of the other? How can we mourn? How should we mourn? For some, these questions arise on account of the death of a beloved pet, a friend, a child, a spouse, and/or a parent. Perhaps they arise even on account of the death of their own faith in God, others, humanity, and/or the universe. Yet since 2020, these questions have become especially emphatic with Covid-19 spreading across the globe disrupting, transforming, and ruining many people’s lives. With little risk for hyperbole, I suspect that not a single person’s life was left untouched by the effects of Covid. Moreover, I suspect that how Covid touched each person’s life in some degree or another centered around each person experiencing the inflexible law of life: that one of two people will experience the other die.2 This world-event of a pandemic gave rise to worldwide deaths each of which touched someone somewhere, each of us, personally thereby leaving virtually everyone wondering what is happening to me, to us, to the world, etc. For some, this event led to a mourning that overcame them leading them to be added to the number of deaths during Covid though not from the virus but by their own hand. For others who survived not just the deaths of the others around them but, perhaps, also their own appeal to end their own life, the mourning left to be done and left to be undergone left them in a place teeming with possibility. This place teeming with possibility in the aftermath of the death of the other or in the throws of mourning is the site that I explore in this paper with Jacques Derrida, and a few others, as my guide.


Originally published as:

“The Gift of Mourning,” Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 31.1/2 (2023): 85-105.

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