Philosophy Workshop: Grief as Self-Discovery

Once upon a time, we lived in a dark, damp world where children didn’t attend school, employment disappeared, and city air was poisonous. COVID-19 was an international pandemic of grief –we all know someone whose families struggled to make ends meet, whose jobs changed or disappeared; whose loved ones have lingering health complications; and whose workplaces, homes, and cities became surrounded by death. Even now as we emerge from the quarantined era, an eeriness pervades our old habits and infects our new ones. So much has happened in the past 2 years to unsettle our sense of place and identity. Not only has the pandemic reoriented how we approach our daily lives, but it has also called attention to the impactful role grief has in multiple aspects of life – school, work, family, health, and home. Pandemic or not, where do we go from here?

In this April workshop designed & led by Merlin Student Scholar Fellow Julianna Breit, we offered a framework for acknowledging and understanding grief’s role in our lives through the lens of philosophy In the process, we explored three basic questions:

  • “What is grief?” 
  • “What can it do for us?”
  • And, “How is grief related to self-discovery & self-knowledge?”

While this workshop was not intended to be a “treatment” for grief (in the clinical sense), we do hope that some of the insights gained and questions explored offered some relief by presenting a philosophical perspective for understanding our lives with grief in them. 

“Vain is the word of a philosopher which does not heal any suffering of man.” Epicurus


Reading & Resources

(With commentary)

About Our Workshop Leader

Julianna Breit is our 2021-2022 Merlin Student Scholar Fellow. Julianna is our first undergraduate fellow.  A junior at Carroll College, she is double-majoring in Biochemistry and Philosophy with minors in Ethics and Value Studies, Neuroscience, and Chemistry.  Valuing inquisition, creativity, integration, restoration, and understanding, Julianna strives to unite philosophy and neuroscience.  

Her current research interests include Phenomenology of Emotion, Trauma, and Empathy.  She is interested in pursuing a holistic perspective of body and mind that will help to inform her understanding of the human experience and her work in the field.

Her fellowship involves a combination of research, writing and philosophy in the community activities.  In the first semester of her fellowship, Julianna examined and wrote about the philosophical underpinnings and consequences of grief on the individual as both a philosophical being and community member.  Read her work here!  She was also a regular participant in our philosophy in the community activities.   In her second semester, in addition to continued research and writing,  she has been involved in the philosophical critique and analysis of some of our community activities and has designed and will be leading this philosophy workshop in the community (based on her work).  Learn more about Julianna here!

Thank You’s

Thank you to Julianna, David Nowakowski, the Carroll College Philosophy department, and the Helena community for helping to make this workshop such a success!

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