Reflections on Grief: The Rubik’s Cube & Heart to Heart with C.S. Lewis

22 Oct

(Facebook Post 8/31/15)

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– The Rubik’s Cube –

I wish I could wrap my arms around all these facts and feelings. Enclose them in one space and then squish them together into a small square and sit them on a shelf so that I was not consumed by them all the time. If I could form them into a Rubik’s Cube I could take down and turn and examine each fact, each feeling individually, line them up in order, make some kind of sense out of them, control them. But I can’t and it leaves me feeling so frustrated, so antsy. I imagine it feels like a meth addict tweaking. It’s so relentless; so, so, so, I don’t even know.

unknown (2) – Heart to Heart with C.S. Lewis –

I think I am struggling to voice what C.S. Lewis already said so very well in “A Grief Observed”. C.S. Lewis said some controversial things in that book. I guess because he was speaking of his own thoughts and feelings and comparing them to what he knew or thought he knew about God. Regardless, when a well-respected Christian says something we often embrace it without thought based on his reputation and standing alone. Yet if I say virtually the same thing, I feel as if eyebrows will go up and scripture will be quoted in order to correct my heretical thinking. Maybe my own inner eyebrow is rising, my own inner mind spouting well worn scriptures back to my heartbroken other half – my internal split personality alive and well and taking me to task.

So I’ve summarized, in my own words, some of Lewis’s quotes – it actually took me three summaries for the first quote alone. My thoughts are numbered and placed beneath the quote they reflect. Some of the summaries are things I’ve fleshed out in my own mind and was surprised to discover he had already said something very similar. Others are things I’ve not encountered and maybe never will, but I recognized the truth of them and put them in my own words as I understood them. All this is my attempt to fashion my own internal Rubic’s Cube of reason for my hearts unreasonable demand for control – for closure – for meaning and purpose – for peace.

“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.”

1. I can find comfort in the truth that my children fulfilled their God ordained purpose in life – no matter how short it was.

2. I can take comfort in the spiritual changes suffering will manifest.

3. I will not find maternal comfort – I must accept and understand I will never find comfort for my separation from my children. Never.

“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.”

4. An unanticipated truth about grief is that “I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” I can’t say it any better than he did.

“For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?”

“But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?”

“How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

5. Grief is made up of phases that you go through repeatedly. You don’t work through one and advance to the next but instead maybe make a step forward and later find out you really didn’t take a step forward at all and begin again without any idea of how long the entire process will last.

“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.”

6. It doesn’t matter how well you yourself or others perceive you to be coping with your grief. It will continue until it’s done.

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.”
“Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?

7. We might try to conquer the overload of feelings with thought, but that logical understanding will not prevent you from feeling the intense emotions grief generates. There is no way to avoid the feelings.

“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. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. 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. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. 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.”

8. Grief changes you. You may heal from the searing pain, but in the end you will be forever changed. You cannot return to the person you were. You have been irrevocably altered in fundamental ways, if not outwardly apparent then inwardly scarred.

“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?”

9. We all wonder if the ways we try to cope with our grief are completely vain – that instead we will simply have to endure it.

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that 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.”

“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But 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.”

10. When we desperately need God we often feel abandoned.

“Nothing 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.”

11. Introspective people fear that the only way they learn the lessons God wants to teach them is through suffering.

“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. Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions ‘on the further shore,’ pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! ‘Things on this side are not so different after all.’ There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.”

12. Those who grieve don’t want to hear about the consolation faith provides. In the midst of our heartache we find consolation non-existent, we simply want what was lost restored.

“. . . for the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress.”

13. Deep love results in deep grief. Great faith results in fierce attacks from Satan.

“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, 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.”

“I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string, then I remember and have to lay the bow down.”

14. Grief feels like continuous waiting for what comes next. It leaves one on constantly alert, unable to relax, with endless, repetitive emptiness stretching before you.

“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?”

15. God’s plans are for our eternal good and may be terribly painful in this earthly world in which we reside.

“Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can’t escape. Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. And how or why did such a reality blossom (or fester) here and there into the terrible phenomenon called consciousness? Why did it produce things like us who can see it and, seeing it, recoil in loathing? Who (stranger still) want to see it and take pains to find it out, even when no need compels them and even though the sight of it makes an incurable ulcer in their hearts? People like H. herself, who would have truth at any price.”

16. The grieving often dig for every minute detail in regards to the events that surrounded the death of their loved one from the grisly details of how it happened to how people heard the news, responded and what they did as a result. We want to know it all regardless of how much it hurts.

“Bridge-players tell me 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.”

17. The loss of a close loved one elevates what you believe about God, heaven and hell to a level of supreme importance. Suddenly what others have told you is no longer good enough. You must determine for yourself what you believe.

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

18. We fear we might learn something about God we find unacceptable.

“An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”

19. We are absolutely unprepared for the way others respond to us after the death of a loved one. Some people avoid you, some want to know all the details so they can either gossip about you or feel as if they are part of the inner circle. The grief-stricken make others uncomfortable.

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Books, Faith, Grief


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