C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” Lewis’ reflections on grief are unparalleled in their insight and raw humanity. For the longest time I did not understand this confusion or intermingling that he highlights. As a young woman who had for most of my life been shielded from grief I could not comprehend how one could fear losing something that was already gone – pain, regret, denial: these all seemed like reasonable responses, but not fear.
I was 21 when a young man that I had a brief romance with committed suicide and grief paid me a personal visit for the first time. When someone who has touched your life dies it rips a hole in you that logic and words cannot fill. It shows you that human life, including your own, is fragile and utterly out of your control; and there are moments when the fear that life will never be as it was is paralyzing. I made my way through the phases of grief in a fashion that would have made any psychologist brim with textbook certainty and yet the journey was all my own mapping itself on my heart in permanent ink. I still do not understand why it happened and I cannot say that the absence it left has been filled, but the wounds no longer burn and the memories are all the more beautiful when I consider how this crushing of my heart also released a new fragrance in me*:
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
*Forgiveness is the fragrance the flower sheds on the heel that has crushed it. – Mark Twain