Grief is like fear in the way it gnaws the gut. Your mind is on a short tether, turning round and round. You fear to focus on your grief but cannot concentrate on anything else. You look with incredulity at those going about their ordinary lives. There is a gulf between you and them, as if you had been stranded on an island for lepers; indeed, Lewis wonders whether a grieving person should be put in isolation like a leper, to avoid the awkwardness of encounters with the unbereaved, who don’t know what to say and, though they feel goodwill, exhibit something like shame.
Gradually the shape of loss emerges, but it is complex and ever-changing. Grief gives the whole of life “a permanently provisional feeling”. Sorrow is “a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape”. The dead person recedes, losing selfhood, losing integrity, becoming an artefact of memory. The process creates panic and guilt; are we remembering properly? Are we remembering enough? A year passes, but each day the loss strikes us as an absolute novelty. When Lewis wrote A Grief Observed, he did not objectify his grief in the language of psychology, but alternated between the terms available to, on the one hand, the spiritual seeker, and on the other hand the stricken child.