Death is an inevitable event in the life of every living being, and it usually scares people. Medically, death means stopping life’s functions – breathing, blood circulations, and others. However, such an understanding can be questioned due to the invention of life support devices and the development of the death of the brain concept (“Philosophical definition of death or the scientific version?” 2019). Such inventions are bringing scientists closer to philosophical reflections on what death is.
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At the same time, various philosophers have distinctive views on this issue. For example, Plato believed that death is the separation of the soul from the body, and Epicurus saw it as nothing (“Death: Philosophy definitions,” n.d.). Thus, ignoring various philosophical and religious views, death can practically be interpreted as a complete cessation of the body’s vital functions.
When faced with the death of loved ones, as well as with other traumatic events, a person usually experiences grief. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified and described five stages of grief in 1969 – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (Gregory, 2020). Their manifestation can be considered using the example of the philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, who devoted a book to his experience of grief. He lost his son Eric, who died in an accident at the age of twenty-five while rock climbing. The book’s uniqueness is that it does not describe grief as a psychological phenomenon but immerses readers into the real-life experience. This feature helps grieving people find a response and comfort in it, rather than the detached narrative.
The death of his son shocked Wolterstorff, which is a sign of denial along with confusion. He describes these feelings in this way: “It was like being tossed into a pool of ice. Well, somehow it both burned and was icy” (Wolterstorff, 2018, para. 36). The shock state and avoidance help to cope with the subsequent grief and prepare for its burden. The philosopher’s anger was manifested in many questions “why” – why his son was alone, why he climbed the mountain, and others.
The stages of grief do not necessarily appear in the sequence described by Kübler-Ross. This feature was manifested in the experience of Wolterstorff as he was overtaken by depression before bargain. Eric’s personal belongings made his father think about what his son’s life would have been like if there had not been an accident. The other two stages were related to the Christian faith of the philosopher. While bargaining, through a return to life, he wanted to put an end to suffering and told his family that it was necessary to live as if Eric was alive (Wolterstorff, 2018). Finally, the belief that the father would speak again to the gone son led Wolterstorff to acceptance.
Thus, faith in God and resurrection became a comfort for the philosopher. In Christianity, as part of the Divine Plan, Jesus atoned for the sins of humankind with his death and restored people’s relationship with God. As a result, those who live as a worthy Christian after physical death will live everlasting life in heaven. Wolterstorff also found comfort in mourning his son as a manifestation of love, thereby strengthening his connection with the Lord because God is love. In this way, the book also demonstrates a Christian perspective on grief and death. Studying different religious and cultural attitudes towards these processes, as well as their psychological understanding, are essential. Such knowledge helps not only to comfort loved ones but also to find hope and relief in these views personally.
Death: Philosophy definitions. (n.d.). In The-Philosophy. Web.
Gregory, C. (2020). The five stages of grief. Web.
Philosophical definition of death or the scientific version? (2019). Health Europa. Web.
Wolterstorff, N. (2018). Lament for a son: Nicholas Wolterstorff on grief and suffering [Audio file transcript]. Web.