Allison's Book Bag

Musings Meme: Current Reads #16

Posted on: February 10, 2014

MusingMondaysWhat are you reading right now?
What do you think of it?
Why did you chose it?

The preface to my version of A Grief Observed contains an introduction by the son of C. S. Lewis which explains the origins of this brief four-chapter book. C. S. Lewis was not a stranger to pain. He has lost his mother at age nine. Friends had been lost to him over the years, some in battle during World War I or due to sickness.

A Grief Observed focuses on his emotional angst after the death of his wife, whom he had spent the last weeks of her life constantly caring for. The notebooks he filled were never intended for the public. However, upon reading them later, Lewis felt they might serve of help of others in their time of mourning and so he published them.

Meanwhile where is God? … if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when you feel your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the other side. –C.S. Lewis

In Chapter One, Lewis describes what grief feels like. It can make one lazy, in that one loathes the slightest effort. Grief can also make one start questioning God, perhaps not His existence but his character instead. Lewis also shares how he feels indecent if he talks to the children about their mother. He even feels an embarrassment to people in general that he meets on the street, at work, and in the pub. No one knows how to approach him. Nor does Lewis know how to talk to others. Finally, he shares how he fears going to places that Helen and him had been happy.

It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you trust it? –C.S. Lewis

In Chapter Two, Lewis focuses on his wife. He talks about how time is causing his images and memories of her to fade. Lewis also talks about the finality of death. Even if he could onto the sensation of her presence, it would never actually make her alive again. Lewis also shares what others have said to comfort him such as “She is with God” or “She is in God’s hands.” None of these well-intended expressions bring him any relief for Lewis is in pain. He even wonders whether it is rational to believe in a bad or sadistic God.

It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you trust it? Something quite unexpected has happened. It came this morning early. For various reasons, not in themselves at all mysterious, my heart was lighter than it had been for many weeks. –C.S. Lewis

In Chapters Three and Four, Lewis starts to feel better. This does not mean Lewis is “getting over” the death of his wife. He provides an analogy of a man who gets his leg cut off. After the operation, the wound will heal and the pain will stop. The injured man will even find himself about to walk about again, but in a different fashion. While there will be moments that he will forget about his loss, he will never be without it. His whole way of life has been changed.  In parallel, Lewis finally finds himself about to revisit old haunts and even find happiness in them. He starts to consider why God might have allowed Helen to die and how Lewis should now react. Lewis still needs his wife with him, but he also still needs God, and so now he needs to figure out how to move forward.

Lewis doesn’t offer easy answers to grief or to faith. Rather, he recognizes that both are difficult to reconcile. For that reason, I appreciate A Grief Observed every time I read it.

8 Responses to "Musings Meme: Current Reads #16"

Your review of A Grief Observed prompted me to reread it. I imagine that after your mother’s death some of my feelings and thoughts were similiar to those experienced by C. S. Lewis after his wife’s death, but I don’t know as I didn’t record them. I do know though that even now, over forty full years later, I sometimes look back at your mother’s and my life together and wish that that it had been longer.

I’m amazed that Lewis could pull himself together to record his emotions. Writing about grief is something I normally can do only weeks or months after the fact.

I’ve read some of Lewis’ other work, but not this.

Here is my musing.

C.S. Lewis has actually written twice about grief. However, The Problem with Pain is more academic. A Grief Observed arises straight from the tangled mess of emotions Lewis felt after his wife’s death.

Sounds like a wonderful exploration. Enjoy! Here’s MY MUSING MONDAYS POST

I ended up reading A Grief Observed through three times. 🙂

That is a book we could all use at some point in our lives. We all have losses that we have to get over. Click here to go to Mixed Book Bag

Philip Yancey has also written a couple excellent books about pain. They’re on my list to reread!

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