C. S Lewis, A Grief Observed and my grief

C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed and my grief.

This is my second post on C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, the story of his loss of his beloved wife, Joy.  Their relationship is portrayed in the movie, Shadowlands.

In my first post, I compared Lewis’ loss with the accounts of a pair of literary writers, Joyce Carol Oates and Joan Didion.  In this post I compare Lewis’ loss with my own recent loss of my wife of forty years, E.  This post feels different; my loss is still so raw.

Lewis lost his faith—for a little while.  I have less faith to lose.

Actually, it’s not quite true to say Lewis lost his faith in God.  He lost his faith in a benevolent God, imaging that God inflicts pain because he can.

Someone said, I believe, ‘God always geometrizes.’  Supposing the truth were ‘God always vivisects’? (p 41)

What reason, he asks, can we have, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is good?  Doesn’t all the evidence suggest the opposite?  What have we to set against it? We set Christ against it. But what if Christ were mistaken? “Almost His last words may have a perfectly clear meaning.” (p 42)

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Thoughts while reading A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis

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.

Continue reading Thoughts while reading A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis

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