Clive Staple Lewis is a known writer, renowned scholar, and lay theologian. He is recognized for over 30 works written in a genre of fiction and non-fictional Christian apologetics that is still cited by many philosophers and apologetics. One of C. S. Lewis’s religious works, A Grief Observed, was dedicated to his deceased wife Joy Davidman, and was published in 1961 under a pseudonym but was released under his name two years later.
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The book comprised of four notebooks employed by the author to express his feelings towards exploring his grief and trials of living joyless life without his spouse. Though being a theologian and a mature Christian instills a keen perception of the future, the author is torn out of his faith and is to face unspecified phenomenon exposing his faith to testing.
The book A Grief Observed describes the state of one’s mind exposed to grieving and suffering. There is a hypothesized question of whether human nature allows a person to lead a healthy life after experiencing a commotion of the spirit. The story is based on the real event of Lewis’s life, specifying the case of his wife’s death named “H” (her first name was Helen) throughout the series of reflections from his notebooks.
The work portrays the state of spite and perplexity in respect of God after H’s demise and the impressions of living without her. The period of mourning affected his spirituality, causing him to reflect a lot on what God sent him. Eventually, he established his revolutionary perception of God: true love was a precious dowry he managed to experience.
Grief is an unrestrained process everyone encounters once in a while. It is believed that cultural identities and the worldview, in general, affect the perception of misery and death because they influence one’s mentality first. Many researchers state that cultural context plays a role in interaction with social and psychological factors that establish the level of bereavement reception, especially in the case of losing a loved one (Smid et al., 2018, p.1051).
It means that depending on the culture, whether people suffer a lot or reconcile with someone’s death and move on. The cultural norms become substantial when it comes to bereavement. For instance, in a patriarchal culture losing a father implies losing the head of the family and brings much distress to the relatives.
C. S. Lewis used to have an atheistic position; however, his conversion to Christianity happened later, but it was a long-termed process of letting faith into his life. He resisted accepting faith, love, and feeling till the death intruded and made him vulnerable. Therefore, his world deemed, and according to Fuchs (2018), “The world of the bereaved person has changed profoundly: It appears darkened, homeless, alienated, even permeated by death” (p. 44). He resisted feelings but gave up on his way of learning why God gave him this long-term trial. However, the resistance made the transformation of grief into joy possible. His grief is conditionally divided into anger, mourning, and acceptance resembling gratefulness.
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The first period of anger makes the writer always feels “a door slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside. After that, silence” (Lewis, 1961, p. 6). Therefore, Lewis (1961) had reservations about relationships with God, stating that in the moments of blissfulness, one always feels God’s presence, while bereavement lacks the sign of Him. The second period of mourning was less bitter because the author did not address hatred towards God but hoped to renew his faith. Finally, he realized the connection between God and his spirituality perceiving grieving as a way of healing one’s soul and embracing it as a gift as loving his wife was a joy for him.
I firmly believe that religion and cultural surroundings affect our ability to percept the hardships. I relate myself to a cultural identity not according to my nationality but to religion, specifically to Christianity. Being a religious person, I went through similar stages of grief that led me to the realization that people should trust in God’s plan as His intentions imply only the valuable lessons. Moreover, at the stage of resistance and anger, there always should be hope and belief in the face of difficulty.
To my mind, bereaved people should seek help from others to adjust to new circumstances so that they could guide us through the pain. I consider that each human being must find joy in the days spent, especially with the loved ones, and perceive any lesson as a thing bestowed form above. When it comes to death, I must understand that it is a part of life, and I have to go through it to learn another lesson. This is how my cultural identity played a part in establishing my attitude towards grief and death.
In conclusion, it is necessary to mention that each person confronts death and grief regardless of the faith one belongs to. However, everyone’s faith and beliefs get tested according to someone’s intention, and the choice is up to people: whether they choose to accept and move forward or to grieve. Perhaps, some people even need to overcome the traumatic events to transform into the one with a different outlook on life. Eventually, the grief reflects the presence of love in one’s life and makes one feel alive.
Fuchs, T. (2017). Presence in absence. The ambiguous phenomenology of grief. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 17(1), 43-63.
Lewis, C. S. (1961). A grief observed. HarperCollins Publishers.
Smid, G. E. et al. (2018). Toward cultural assessment of grief and grief-related psychopathology. Psychiatric Services, 68(10), 1050-1052.