About the project

Grief: A Study of Human Emotional Experience is a 4-year AHRC-funded project at the University of York.

​The overarching aim of this project is to develop a detailed, wide-ranging, and integrated account of what it is to experience grief, focusing on aspects of grief that are of considerable theoretical and practical importance but remain poorly understood.

​​More specific objectives of the project are organized around three overlapping thematic areas:

  1. Emotion and Perception
    • ​What do temporally extended emotional processes consist of? What – if anything – unifies them, and which characteristics distinguish one type of emotional process from another?
    • How can emotional experiences such as grief be both specifically focused and, at the same time, all-enveloping? How do these aspects of grief relate to one another?
    • What do experiences of the deceased as present or conspicuously absent consist of? What does this tell us about the relationships between emotion, perception, and belief?
  2. Interpersonal Experience and Understanding
    • What are the core commitments of the ‘continuing bonds’ approach to grief, and how might that approach be brought into fruitful dialogue with work in philosophy and cognitive science on interpersonal experience, understanding, and relatedness?
    • Should the field of interdisciplinary social cognition research, which has to date focused exclusively on our relations with the living, also encompass our relations with the dead?
    • What do ‘bereavement hallucinations’, in all their diversity, consist of? Are some or all of them properly regarded as perceptual experiences in one or more modalities?
    • By studying the effects of bereavement, what can we learn about the manner in which experience, thought, and activity are regulated by relations with other people?
    • How is grief and its unfolding shaped by regulative processes involving the interpretation of grief by self and others, including the co-construction and revision of narratives?​​
  3. The Bounds of Grief
    • How does grief over the death of a person differ from other emotions, including other responses to loss?
    • How, if at all, can experiences of typical or healthy grief be distinguished phenomenologically from forms of pathological grief and depression? What are the implications of this for psychiatric classification, diagnosis, research, and treatment?
    • What are the broader impacts of a detailed philosophical account of grief-experiences?

Grief Experience Survey

We conducted a phenomenological survey to investigate people's experiences of grief, focusing especially on aspects that are poorly understood, puzzling, and difficult to articulate. The aim of this survey was to investigate such features of grief, identify differences and commonalities between people’s experiences, and facilitate detailed, wide-ranging philosophical analyses of what is involved in experiencing grief. The full, searchable corpus of anonymised testimonies is now openly available.

Explore the Grief Experience Survey

Grief and the Pandemic​

Watch our film collaboration with Calling the Shots productions for the Arts and Humanities Research Council supported by BBC Arts Culture in Quarantine. The film is part of the Animated Thinking series of films, based on the work of UK academics.


If you are struggling with grief, help is available. ​Contact Cruse Bereavement Care on 0808 808 1677.