Human Grief Made Eloquent

Recognized as one of the great pieces in C.S. Lewis’s repertoire, I felt sort of bad that I had never read A Grief Observed. It was actually assigned in my Thanatopsis (Philosophy of Death) class all those years ago, but I’m far less likely to read something when it’s assigned. Regardless, I finally read through it, and while I can see the comfort that those grieving derive from it, I find his arguments for turning back to religion severely lacking.

Lewis certainly has a way with words, and his comparison of grief to suspense is painfully apt. For someone currently going through a loss, having someone as eloquent as Lewis explain what it feels like must certainly be a comfort. I found myself, even many years removed from close grief, vividly remembering and feeling a kindred spirit. However, when he turns his eye to God, it feels vacuous.

Considering his reputation as the skeptic’s Christian, I was looking forward to seeing some interesting arguments or propositions put forward. I was unfortunately quite disappointed, as each argument he puts forth AGAINST God is only refuted with an appeal to emotion. He refers again and again to beating against God’s door, only to be turned away, and yet when he rediscovers his faith the only difference is his reaction to the lack of any meaning or answer. Strangely enough, I actually found my lack of faith reinforced by what is supposed to be a book known for bringing people back into the fold.

Lewis refers to his faith as a house of cards on many occasions, built up only to be knocked over by the slightest gust. I feel like that analogy is far more fitting for his lack of faith, since he immediately begins his retreat towards faith when he sinks into grief. That this is understandable makes it no less regrettable.

At only 89 pages, there isn’t much more to say. I’m glad to have read it, and may revisit it again in another time and another place, but only for the human comforts it contains.

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