In this article, I consider comparisons of grief to amputation and phantom limbs, in memoirs of loss, to argue that we should conceive of grieving as a transformative rather than recuperative process. Phenomenological work by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Matthew Ratcliffe reveals that grief and phantom limbs both attest to the structural significance of embodied and intersubjective habits, and how such habits persist even after they have become inexecutable by changes in objective circumstances. Both experiences, furthermore, involve a refusal or reluctance. I argue that such reluctance is a meaningful response to the loss marked by grief, and that we should therefore conceive of grieving not as a process in which we recuperate former ways of being, but as a transformative process in which we articulate new relational habits. Resources for this re-conception, I suggest, can be found in Havi Carel's phenomenological work on chronic illness and disability.

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