Loss is an integral part of the human experience, whether we encounter it in the form of lost loved ones, lost relationships, lost opportunities and the loss of capabilities as we age. We experience it personally, as part of a family and as part of a community whose collective experiences of loss occasions more public displays of commemoration. We are constantly challenged to find ways of coping and surviving in the face of different types of loss. Due in part to the complexities of the concept itself and the resistance many individuals feel toward discussing painful subjects, it is often difficult to engage in the sort of robust, inter-disciplinary dialogue that is needed to explore fully the links between living, suffering, dying, and surviving loss.
This project is profoundly interdisciplinary, as it seeks to explore how loss can be expressed through cognitive, affective, somatic, behavioral/interpersonal, and spiritual grief responses. The extent to which, if any, meaning can be found amidst an experience of loss. During the course of living our lives, we are invariably forced to stop and question why we suffer – be it through illness, pain, loss, grief or the multitude of distressing circumstances which we encounter. Problems arise in a variety of contexts and due to a bewildering variety of conditions, and thus loss can be evolving, without stages or timetables, and even highly individualistic. And because our lives are constantly on-going streams of experience, the nature of loss and consequently the ‘meaning’ of such loss continually varies and changes. Furthermore, the questions of meaning, value, and relationship that arise during experiences of loss, involve a vast array of disciplines, methodologies, and frames of reference.
This research and publishing stream aims to create a supportive, intellectually stimulating environment in which participants from across the disciplinary spectrum to come together to explore different kinds of loss and identify how inter-disciplinary approaches can offer better ways of dealing with loss. We will examine the changing role of medicine, palliative care, the work of the hospice movement, the work of the funeral industry, and the changing natures of grief and mourning. Interest will also focus on philosophical, familial, and psychological issues which surround the processes of dying and death, including the role of religion in shaping our reactions to loss, and the diverse range of historical, social, and cultural perspectives and practices that shape our mourning habits. Since palliative care, by definition, attends to and seeks to mitigate suffering, loss also wrestles with the experience of suffering: how to define it, cope with it, heal it (if possible, when appropriate), mitigate it, and make (some) sense of it. We will also broaden the scope of examination to address loss in the context of relationship breakdowns, aging and personal development.
The issues include a tapestry of interwoven themes and areas of questions, such as:
- What is loss?
- What are the roots of loss?
- The meanings and purposes of loss?
- Can loss be explained?
- What is relationship between loss and spiritual practice? Religion?
- How can loss be represented?
- How is loss overcome? How can we cope with it?
- How does one deal with and perhaps respond to different kinds of loss?
- How does technology and other medical advances impact our loss?
- How is loss treated, understood, and perceived in different healthcare settings?
- What are the philosophical and psychological issues that emerge in encounters with loss?
- What are the experiences of bereavement, grief, and mourning?
- How is loss portrayed in media?
- What is the relationship between loss and memory, memorials and remembrance?
Who Should Get Involved
The audience for this project includes all involved in the human condition: doctors, lawyers, nurses, nurse practitioners, chaplains, faith leaders, mental health professionals, funerary workers, social workers, civil servants, representatives of charities, NGOs and not-for-profits working in relevant areas, and academics as well as artists whose work and research involves themes of loss, mortality, and/or death.