Martin Heidegger (1927) contends that death, if experienced as an authentically owned possibility, is non-relational in that it is unsharable: “No one can take the Other’s dying away from him…. By its very essence, death is in each case mine” (p. 284). In my own work (Stolorow 2011), by contrast, I claim that an authentic being-toward-death entails owning up not only to one’s own finitude, but also to the finitude of all those we love. Hence, I contend, authentic being-toward-death always includes being-toward-loss as a central constituent. Just as, existentially, we are “always dying already” (Heidegger, 1927, p. 298), so too are we always already grieving. Death and loss are existentially equiprimordial. Existential anxiety anticipates and discloses both death and loss.
In loss as possibility, all possibilities for being in relation to the lost loved one (other than imaginary and symbolic possibilities) are extinguished. Thus, being-toward-loss is also a being-toward-the-death of a part of one’s being-in-the-world—toward a form of existential death. Traumatic loss shatters one’s emotional world, and, insofar as one dwells in the region of such loss, one feels eradicated. Jacques Derrida (2001) captures this claim poignantly and poetically: