I have just finished reading ‘A Grief Observed’ by C.S. Lewis and found my very own thoughts and emotions written there. Things that I was too afraid to articulate for fear of being judged were put down in black and white by a man who has long been held in high esteem. His unflinching look at his own grief after the loss of his wife has prompted me to take a look at my own.
Up until recently I believed that grief was something that happened to me. I have since been disabused of this notion and have been informed that grief is, in fact, something we need to actively participate in. This was a revelation and has meant that I have now been setting aside time to look at my grief, examine it, delve into it and understand it.
Writing has certainly helped me make sense of the emotions I feel and acknowledging that I have to take part in this grief rather than let it happen to me has opened an unexpected door. This was reflected in C.S. Lewis’ own writings when he says “It was as if the lifting of the sorrow removed a barrier…You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis).
I have thus far felt that I had to wrap myself in a cloak of mourning to truly honour the memory of Kari-Lee, but what I have found is that when my heart is lighter, when my mourning is less, my memories of her are clearer and my honouring of her memory is more authentic. “…passionate grief does not link us with the dead but cuts us off from them.” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis) It is as though when we try to hold too tight, we actually lose our grip and it becomes more about us than about those that we mourn.
But I don’t say this to discount times of mourning and sorrow, for they too are needed. We need to allow ourselves the time to feel what we feel, to let our bodies process the emotions that such a loss initiates, but we cannot live in those moments for the rest of our lives. And it is tempting to believe that we can never be truly happy again because of our loss, but how does that honour the ones who have gone?
“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing, after he’s had his leg off is quite another…He has ‘got over it’. But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man.” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis)
I think this passage sums it all up quite nicely. Life does go on but we are forever changed. That doesn’t mean that we can never be happy, just that we are different and that our happiness will also be different. We can’t be afraid of our future, of perhaps finding ourselves happy or laughing and then thinking that we have somehow dishonoured our loved one.
“At present I am learning to get about on crutches. perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”
There is so much more in the short book and, although I know others haven’t, I have gotten a lot out of it. The raw honesty of his writings has helped me face the rawness of my own and to face them unashamedly.