Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Barry Allen


Brigette Sassen



Committee Member

Elisabeth Gedge


In Being and Time Martin Heidegger explores the role that death plays in our lives and consequently the impact that the death of others has on the lives of those around them. Since Heidegger understands our existence to be structured by our being toward death and our being in the world with others, the impact of death on society will inevitably play a significant role.

In this thesis I investigate the disconnect that exists between the traditional literature on death and mourning as developed by theorists like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and others and the experiences of mourners themselves. I argue that the disconnect that exists points to and deep seated confusion about the death of the self and the death of others

I identify some of the striking commonalities in the experiences of mourners and the lack of recognition of these experiences in the traditional literature. I also examine the role of traditional mourning practices and the impact they have on the mourners experience.

I maintain that collectively we are profoundly confused about how to deal with the deaths of others, and the lack of modern western mourning practices is evidence of this. However, I believe that individually, we have some understanding of how to approach the death of another, and that this becomes evident when we are forced to experience this loss. I argue that a Heideggerian understanding of death and mourning more accurately represents the experience of the death of others and, if endorsed, would allow for a more personal experience of mourning because of Heidegger’s unique understanding of the role death plays in our lives and the significance of other people in our lives.

McMaster University Library