Death has the almost paradoxical capacity to appear larger than life. It chills with its permanence and astonishes as it stands before us—great, terrible, and vast beyond comprehension. The obscurity of death cries out for grief to answer, and it is that very sensation of astonishment that triggers and also lingers over the process of grief that has gone unexamined for too long. I believe there is a familiar name to put to that sensation that will aid future research. That is, we may be justified in calling that sensation awe. In this paper, I thoroughly examine the relationship between death, grief, and the experience of awe and ultimately argue that understanding the power of death to leave the living struck with awe has the potential to change how we respond to our own grief as well as the grief of others. Rather than perceiving grief as a disease or infliction that we fear we will never recover from, or some kind of proof of irrationality leaving us feeling horribly unqualified to revive ourselves, grief becomes a call to expand the mind and turn outward. When one comes to accept and appreciate the role of awe as a natural response to the large, obscure, powerful nature of death, and the subsequent grieving process as a process of accommodation, it becomes evident that healthy, rational grief does not demand that we forsake our loved ones, but rather it invites us to broaden the conception of our loved ones as well as ourselves.
Moskot, Olivia L.
"A Sublime Death: Shock and Awe,"
The Hilltop Review: Vol. 13:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/hilltopreview/vol13/iss1/6