(47) No One Ever Told Me…

In my previous blog I made a reference to a text by C.S. Lewis. The texts are beautiful and one of them in particular. It describes what you feel when you lost a dearest shortly. Here it is:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me . . .

An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m afraid of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t . . .

And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness . . .

By C. S. Lewis, from ‘A Grief Observed’

I found this text so beautiful that I had to share it with you.

(46) Afraid of…

There appears to exist a very common fear for people. For most people this fear exists in a mild form with which they can live well. Even though they feel uncomfortable when they contact unfamiliar people.

In addition to this we have the concept of xenophobia, fear for foreigners. In this case the fear for people might be ‘enhanced’ because we don’t have an understanding of the habits and the background of the foreign cultures; the fear for the unknown.

Personally I can’t imagine those fears. Maybe it’s because I’m used to travel to a lot of places around the world and… have worked over there. Maybe it’s because I’m also interested in other cultures and people. While waiting at the airport for the (connecting) flight and often during the flight itself, I often spoke with people. Usually I found those conversations interesting and on parting I always kept a good feeling about these. Sometimes you met the other somewhere again and you were greeted as a close acquaintance; those were the great moments in life.

Fear is an emotion we as humans create ourselves. It’s an emotion that is usually not based on facts but on what could happen. However, fear that is based on previous experiences creates a stronger emotion because that what could happen is much more realistic to us.

C.S Lewis wrote in “A Grief Observed”:
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.

Maybe that’s why people avoid you when you’re in mourning… because they are afraid of a loss of one of their loved ones themselves… because they are afraid not knowing how to respond to you … because they don’t want to talk about this … because they are afraid of the unknown. It could also be the case that you avoid other people … because you don’t want to be remembered every time about your sorrow … or the loss you suffered.

It could also explain why people who have experienced loss and grief themselves, do not avoid you and start a conversation with you.

(40) Why can I not forget?

Apparently I can’t forget and accept everything because something deep down in my soul was hurt.

My mother met a man with whom she ended up together; my father was deceased over 20 years by then. I was 22, studied at the university and until then I was the man in the house. It took some time in the beginning to get used to the new situation at home, but that quickly changed. He not only gave rest in the place, but I didn’t have to be the man in the house no longer and got more time for my studies. His children were already married. He had two sons and a daughter and I wasn’t the only child anymore. With his sons I got on well and we did a lot of things together. Life was good.

I met a beautiful and amazing wife.. we got married… I graduated and got a challenging international job… we got our first child, a daughter. Despite she was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (a genetic disease) shortly after her birth and because we had to deal with the acceptance by our families of that, we were all in all a happy family.

It happened after a dinner at one of the son’s places. His wife made a comment to me that our daughter is very lucky with parents like us because we were able to deal with her disease. The other son and his wife wouldn’t be able to do so, she said. About her own family she wisely didn’t say a word. It took me by surprise and I didn’t know how to respond at that moment. On the one hand it was a compliment… I do realize now, but at that moment it felt as an insult after everything we had experienced with all the families after my daughter’s birth. It became quiet and we decided to go home.

The relationship between us and the son and his wife chilled. My mother and my stepfather felt that something had happened between us and his son, but they didn’t pursue this further. Because my mother and my stepfather had a particular good relationship with each other we didn’t tell them what had happened; we didn’t want to come between their relationship.

Life went on. We were sad and we were happy. Life could be as violent as a roller coaster and in other times nothing could go wrong. When we were asked what we would do if we had the choice to start life all over again, then we answered without hesitation that we would make the same choices again.

But… why can’t I forget that comment of that woman?

While writing, I realize I have forgiven her that comment. But apparently I can’t forget and accept everything because something deep down in my soul was hurt.

(2) A new experience

You would expect that after over 13 years, let me say this mildly, my emotions due to the loss of my daughter would be have been lessened by then.


The death of Anne Birgit had an enormous impact on my life. As sad as this is, it is a new experience. Nevertheless, I would have preferred her to be alive now. But who am I to determine that?

My daughter Anne Birgit,
Private collection of Hans Fransen
My daughter Anne Birgit

The period around the death, in June 2000, of my daughter Anne Birgit was confusing for me. Strange things happened that I could not explain at the time. On the one hand, I was incredibly sad and felt the raw pain of loss. On the other hand, I was arranging everything … “cold” and without any emotion. It all felt very ambivalent. I had no idea how to deal with this. As a family, the days passed like a haze. What was crystal clear was that it felt different for each of us. It was difficult to talk about it with each other, that was also clear to us. We tried, but it didn’t work out.

After months we got structure in our life again

Months later, little by little, everything started to fall back into place; I started to become myself again. The sadness translated into the story about Anne Birgit that I told to everyone who wanted to hear it. Well … somehow the conversation, unconsciously or not, usually turned out to end up with that.

13 years later

One would expect that, after more than 13 years, let me put it thoughtfully, the emotions would be less. On the contrary.

Almost every day I still thought of Anne Birgit and remembered her as she was. The memory turned out to be a very beautiful thing at those moments: all emotions, colours, smells, warmth, conversations, environments became available again down to the smallest details … as if they were photos or film fragments … as if you were reliving it again.

At present

What surprises me most is that there are people who do not think it is normal for me to be saddened by the loss of Anne Birgit. After all, time heals all wounds, doesn’t it? Surely the grief will pass. The answer is yes … and no.

Yes, the raw pain of grief has changed into the gentle pain of grief. No, because I meet friends of Anne Birgit from time to time. Friends who are married and have children. Then, at those moments, you realise what you are missing, and you remember your own daughter and the family and children she could have had. That hurts!

Did I find myself pathetic then? No, on the contrary! I did not find myself pathetic then, as I do now. I was and am proud to be present at the death of Anne Birgit and to say goodbye to her. Am I still sad now? Yes … yes … until my death, I assume. Am I a happy person? Oh yes, I am!

Text updated: 22-10-2020