Friday, December 12, 2008

A Grief Observed

C.S. Lewis kept a journal, "A Grief Observed", of his feelings and thoughts after his wife died. Andre and I have on it audio and we listened to it a lot those first few weeks. I was so awestruck at how he knew exactly what I was feeling...and somehow he managed to put it to words, and to actually make it sound sensible, no less!

Now I have the book to actually hold in my hands. Sometimes I just weep when I read it...because it reminds me that I'm not alone, or crazy, or broken forever. Just knowing that someone else knows and understands gives me hope that someday, somehow I will escape this black hole.


"We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accepted it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course, it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination."


"Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously.’ Apparently it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man – or at any rate a man like me – out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself ."


"Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief"


"I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters and I find I didn't."


"Where is God? Go to him when 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 inside. After that, silence."


"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 come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand."


"Sometimes it is hard not to say, “God forgive God.’ Sometimes it is hard to say so much. But if our faith is true, He didn’t. He crucified Him."



"I once read the sentence 'I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache and about lying awake.' That's true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."


"The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man night be bribed-might grow tired of this vile sport-might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinds and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't? Either way, we're for it. What do people mean when they say, "I am not afraid of God because I know He is good"? Have they never even been to a dentist?"


"Who still thinks there is some device (if only he could find it) which will make pain not to be pain. It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on."


"I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they'll 'say something about it' or not. I hate if they do...and if they don't."


"It is hard to have patience with people who say 'There is no death' or 'Death doesn't matter.' There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter."


"What pitiable cant to say, ‘She will live forever in my memory!’ Live? That is exactly what she won’t do."



"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear... At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says...And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief."


"…there is a spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness, of something amiss... Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street, because I shall take the squalor as normal? Does grief finally subside into boredom tinged by faint nausea."


"Did you know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past, even of the things we never shared. I was wrong to say the stump was recovering from the pain of the amputation. I was deceived because it has so many ways to hurt me that I discover them only one by one."


"And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness."


"God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down."


"Fate (or whatever it is) delights to produce a great capacity and then frustrate it."


"Didn’t people dispute once whether the final vision of God was more an act of intelligence or of love? That is probably another of the nonsense questions."


"And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear."


"Aren't all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won't accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?"


5 comments:

Becky said...

Thank you for sharing these Bethany.

nancy said...

i read so many books about grief, and this thin little volume given to me by one of my sons sits in my nightstand drawer and i still read parts of it even now...nearly 8 years later. it was, and is, a comfort to me as well, and for the same reasons. God bless you. xoxo

TheMoncurs said...

I love CS Lewis...Mere Christianity spoke to me at a time when my faith was flagging. And I'm glad that he wrote something that now speaks to you.

I think I'll go pick up a copy.

Barrett, Melinda, & Angel Trinity Adams said...

There's nothing that has helped me more than to read stuff like that too. Knowing that I too am not crazy or broken for the things I feel from Trin's death. It doesn't take away the pain, but to have someone actually put in words just how you feel, and know that know exactly how you feel...that is priceless. I know how you feel, I understand it so well. So just know that I'm always here!

Love ya,
Melinda

Colby Kids said...

I think about you guys constantly. I am reading. I just don't have the words. Hugs and prayers.