Thoughts while reading A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis begins with a well-known line, at least among those who follow him.
No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. (p 15)
A nervous stomach, constant swallowing–these are some of grief’s fear-like symptoms.
The reason grief feels so much like fear
Grief feels so much like fear because it is fear. The loss of a beloved person threatens to empty the world of value. Saint Augustine writes about this empty world after the loss of a dear friend.
My heart was utterly darkened by this grief, and everywhere I looked I saw nothing but death. . . . My eyes looked for him everywhere and they could not find him. I hated all places because he was not there. . . . I wondered that other men should live when he was dead, for I had loved him as though he would never die. Still more I wondered that he should die and I remain alive, for I was his second self. (Confessions, 4.4.9)
Lewis wonders if grief isn’t selfish. After all, in grief what I really grieve is the loss of someone I held dear. I’m not grieving for my beloved; I’m grieving for myself. True enough, but consider what I am really grieving: the loss of who I was when I was with this other person. The person who I was with this other person I can never be again. I can never be this same self even should I love another. That self is gone forever.