Line Ryberg Ingerslev: Refusing to mourn: Reflections on the Relation Between Nostalgia and Grief

According to Freud's theory of mourning, grief is a natural and healthy phenomenon, a process that at some point comes to an end and allows us to return to a form of normality. In his short text Vergänglichkeit (1915), Freud seems surprised by the refusal to mourn as a response to change. The influence of this refusal is experienced as pain with regard to the present, for instance, as an inability to enjoy pleasant moments in life. Jonathan Lear refers this kind of experience not only as an anxious disruption of the normal ways of the world, but also as a difficulty of reality (2018). In this paper, I question whether nostalgia can be understood as a refusal to mourn. I suggest that nostalgia has less to do with time travelling and longing for a past that cannot become present, nor is it merely a form of affective response, among many, to change. What is refused in nostalgia, if we understand it as a refusal to mourn, is the aspect of an afterlife, i.e., of survival that allow us to practice a form of world-building hope. This hope seems absent in nostalgic experiences of pain.


Line Ryberg Ingerslev is a postdoctoral fellow at the department of philosophy, Julius-Maximilian University, Würzburg, Germany. She works on the phenomenological roots of passivity, responsiveness, memory, and on aspects of emotional distress and trauma that play a role in weaker forms of agency.