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LessWrong Curated Podcast

Aug 22, 2022

This post is hopefully useful on its own, but begins a series ultimately about grieving over a world that might (or, might not) be doomed

It starts with some pieces from a previous  coordination frontier sequence post, but goes into more detail.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I didn’t have much experience with grief. By the end of the pandemic, I had gotten quite a lot of practice grieving for things. I now think of grieving as a key life skill, with ramifications for epistemics, action, and coordination. 

I had read The Art of Grieving Well, which gave me footholds to get started with. But I still had to develop some skills from scratch, and apply them in novel ways.

Grieving probably works differently for different people. Your mileage may vary. But for me, grieving is the act of wrapping my brain around the fact that something important to me doesn’t exist anymore. Or can’t exist right now. Or perhaps never existed. It typically comes in two steps – an “orientation” step, where my brain traces around the lines of the thing-that-isn’t-there, coming to understand what reality is actually shaped like now. And then a “catharsis” step, once I fully understand that the thing is gone. The first step can take hours, weeks or months. 

You can grieve for people who are gone. You can grieve for things you used to enjoy. You can grieve for principles that were important to you but aren’t practical to apply right now. 

Grieving is important in single-player mode – if I’m holding onto something that’s not there anymore, my thoughts and decision-making are distorted. I can’t make good plans if my map of reality is full of leftover wishful markings of things that aren’t there.