How does one manage grief? This is seldom answered with any intelligence in a Sunday morning sermon or an afternoon talk show.
“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis, Harper One Publishing, 1960, Pg. 25)
After my father’s death, a friend recommended the book, “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis.
The book is the compilation of notes made by Lewis over a period of time after the death of his wife, Joy. Lewis does not prescribe a resolution he merely permits you a window on the process of grieving as he experienced it. You discover that his process, emotions, and timelines are much like your own.
The book was helpful not only in reflecting on my current process of grieving, but also preparing me for the future. A future that I know includes my wife or I dying and the other being left to grieve. Lewis also helps me be more empathetic to what my mother is experiencing as her loss as a spouse is in a real way, much greater than mine.
There is no quick solution for grief.
Each individual's experience of grief is different. You don’t wake up one morning fixed. It is not until you have a real encounter with grief that you understand there is no ‘just getting over it.'
"Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state, but a process."
Lewis writes, “Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state, but a process. It needs not a map, but a history. Grief is a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. One only meets each hour or moment as it comes. All manners of ups and downs.”
Lewis is open with his sorrow which at times manifests in anger toward God. He lets us see his fist in the air and the redness of his face, “Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in our time of trouble.” Lewis displays his doubt, his lack of faith.
Every believer has doubts, but we are so programmed to swallow those thoughts out of fear that someone might think our faith weak, our resolve diminished, or our soul lost. But here is a defender of the faith, a man of belief who took great care with his decisions confessing his fear, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. When I speak of fear, I mean the merely animal fear, the recoil of the organism from its destruction, the smothering feeling; the sense of being a rat in a trap.”
Lewis continues in his writings presenting doubts, fears, and observations that echo reality and not psychological placating or prosperity gospel BS.
“If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For not even a moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.”
“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their qualities. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t.”
Through his grief he turns the finger pointing back on himself as we all must when attempting to place blame, “If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came.”
Even now as we go home to our spouse wanting to push the moment of death into some far distant fairy tale, Lewis gives us hard realities for us to dwell on and prepare, “…bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance, but the next figure.”
The short journey through Lewis’ notes is powerful. Whether you know grief, or have yet to encounter it, you will learn you are not alone.
This is your chance to view a journey and then walk your own.