Observing Grief: 1
A Grief Observed is the subject for the next few entries. It’s a short book of four chapters and it’s a notebook of sorts as Lewis wrestles with his wife’s death. The Problem of Pain was written years earlier (1940) but this account, as Douglas Gresham references in its introduction, is, “a stark recounting of one man’s studied attempts to come to grips with and in the end defeat the emotional paralysis of the most shattering grief of his life.”
In chapter one the loaded question is, “Where is God?” Lewis feels abandoned, like a door slammed in his face and bolted shut. “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God,” he surmises. “The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.”
Because, if God allows such horrendous things to occur here, under his watch, where is the confidence that such a God can be relied on once the end comes? That’s another question that Lewis circles round and round in this first chapter. Now that grief has touched him so closely, theology seems a distant neighbor to its reality.
The truth is, like any substantive theological view, Lewis is working out his view in light of his experience and finding the eternal truths of God to be abiding, at least he’ll return to such a confidence as he continues his notes. He knew that the journey toward death, and eventually death itself, was an individual road. “Alone into the Alone,” is what Lewis said Joy would tell him. “And how immensely improbable that it should be otherwise!” he seemingly shouts. “Time and space and body were the very thing that brought us together; the telephone wires by which we communicated. Cut one off, or cut both off simultaneously. Either way, mustn’t the conversation stop?”
We know that death is not the end. Lewis knows it. But that doesn’t make the path through grief easy to walk. Has grief and loss influenced your faith and has it helped shape your views on God?
It’s interesting to point out that A Grief Observed was originally published under a pseudonym (N. W. Clark) and it was only posthumously attributed to Lewis.