Longing is without a doubt one of the most fundamental constituents of the experience of grief. Some might even feel inclined to define grief as the very experience of a profound longing for a deceased. This is also reflected in the recent mental health diagnosis prolonged grief disorder, where longing appears as one of the core symptoms. Despite this prominent place, longing takes up in our understanding of grief it has so far not been exposed to a detailed phenomenological analysis.
The chapter provides such a foundational analysis and argues that longing is by no means a self-explanatory emotion but a highly complex and multi-layered experience driven forth by our fundamental need to belong to a familiar world. Hence, longing is an emotion that pertains to our sense of identity and expresses a felt lack in our being. When we long for the dead, matters are made even more complex, since the object of our longing, the deceased, is no longer retrievable. This instils a complex dialectic between identity and alienation, which I will show can broadly be represented in four different modes of longing.