As a response to loss, however, mourning includes more than the impasse that Riley describes. In its most trenchant form, it might induce stuckness, but mourning is also an attempt to interrupt arrested time. It is driven by an animating desire to be unsuspended, to be recast into life after loss. In this sense, mourning seeks a way forward when the structural conditions surrounding and upholding life are damaged or broken. It acts to substitute arrested time for a capacious and worldly absorption in a time when newness is again conceivable. Mourning constitutes an act of founding, an attempt to foreground a new beginning after loss, one that miraculously sets the whole world rotating again.
Mourning presents a felicitous blend of negative and positive freedom. It discloses a feeling of freedom from loss, but also inheres in the freedom to engage again in a new project of investment. Interrupting arrested time (negative freedom), mourning also seeks a way forward (positive freedom), and the opportunity to pursue this forward direction is itself foregrounded by the interruption of arrested time.
Mourning gives loss a creative form, restoring life to a shattered world. Because of this, mourning is about more than the loss of loss. If arrested time follows when one’s horizon of meaning has collapsed, mourning is what yields ‘the mixed blessing of more life’, as the American critic Harold Bloom once put it. It unlocks the present by enlarging the realm of the possible. In this, mourning offers an occasion for freedom.
Under tragic circumstances, such as those captured by the Gettysburg Address, the past can be unforgettable and unforgiveable, and for this very reason redemption might remain an unassumable responsibility. But despite and because of this, mourning invites us to dream of living again. There can be no guarantees that this new life will not itself be fraught, for a new project of investment might itself bear losses in the future. Mourning could animate a new birth, but this doesn’t guarantee a future without vulnerability. Mourning might be a leap in the dark, but it is not a leap into darkness. It is a leap to freedom.