A non-solopsistic account of grieving

In order to understand one’s reasons for grieving, let us return to this scene:

We are speaking of our deaths.

‘Were I to die first, would you grieve for me?’ Aleksandra is speaking.

‘Yes,’ I reply.

For a while, I say nothing. Then I go on: ‘I would have to figure out why I was still living.’

To imply that that Aleksandra gives me a reason for living may mean that, were she to be gone, I would be worse off or that my life would be impoverished. In what sense worse off? How impoverished?

In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle claims that the virtuous human being is self-sufficient but yet he also wants to surround himself with friends. While the excellent human being may be self-sufficient in important respects, he requires (says Aristotle) friends of virtue (and let us add: a lover who is also a friend of virtue) in order to exercise the virtues of generosity, courage, temperance, and the like.

In the context of grief, I take it that, were Aleksandra to pass away before I did, I would no longer be able to be grateful to this person who elicits my gratitude; I would no longer be able to exercises certain virtues that she, as a matter of fact, brings out in me; and I would no longer be able to demonstrate my love for this person who is worthy of my demonstration of love. I am partial to her and with reason. It is not simply that this person provides me with occasions for, say, being grateful, virtuous, and loving. It is more emphatically that she (and not some other) draws gratitude, a suite of salient virtues, and love out of me.

All of which is to say, I think, that we want to be involved in the most excellent activities in human life, that this person is a constituent of these activities, and that this person helps to make our best dialogical self actual.