A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis was our book club read this month. I have read this book before and even posted about it just months after Gavin passed away. It was amazing to re-read this book. When I read it in December 2007 I highlighted the passages that stood out to me. This time - a little over two years later - I went back and highlighted the points that stood out to me NOW. Many were the same, but even more were different.
It is important to note when beginning this book that C.S. Lewis was a highly spiritual man who believed in a higher being. I am unaware of his religious affiliation, however, he is often quoted at church and in other religious settings because of his faith.
The forward of this book by Madeleine L'Engle makes an important observation, ". . . each experience of grief is unique, but there are always certain basic similarities . . ." How true! Not only is each individuals grief unique since each loss is different - but even in my own experience I find that my grief is different day to day - yet there is always that similar-ness as well.
While this book is not a "feel good" read or an easy read, it reminds us that journaling is important. According to L'Engle "What we work out in our journals we don't take out on family and friends." This is C.S. Lewis' journal of grief from the loss of his wife to cancer. You can see his raw emotion of his anger, questioning God, sadness, loneliness and finally acceptance. There is nothing that he sugar coats or makes light of. He is angry at God for not being the "good and kind God" he expected. Maybe this is why I relate to this book. Even with the belief and faith I have - sometimes emotions are raw and a burden to carry without being spoken. I love that Lewis finds reprieve in his journaling. Journaling gives us permission to say all the things we "shouldn't" say. "We can admit our doubts, our own angers and anguishes and to know they are part of the soul's growth," says L'Engle.
During this second reading, I found that when I previously read this book I was angry. I was mad that God had taken my beautiful boy. I was angry that God wasn't fitting into the mold I had created for him. After all, I had been taught that if I made good choices, good things would happen to me and I would be happy. What a false thought! It's not about "right" begetting "good" it is about making right choices to give you the knowledge to work through the difficult parts of life and not loosing sight of the big picture. It is about being in a place spiritually where you can accept His will - even if it breaks your heart.
As I have come to a more accepting and peaceful place with the death of our baby Gavin - I have found that grief comes in less frequent waves, but they are no less painful. Lewis says, "Grief is like a bomber circling round and dropping its bombs each time the circle brings it overhead." While the bombs of grief come less often then they did two years ago - they still stop me dead in my tracks and for those moments and I am paralyzed that something like this happened to ME.
We always think, "Things like that won't happen to me." We go around with a false idea that "these things" happen to other people and not ourselves. Lewis says it so well, "Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination. If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came."
My experience with grief has opened my eyes to the sorrow of others. While I am not perfect at mourning with those that mourn - I am trying. I know that feeling of emptiness and I know the feeling of progressive healing.
At one point in the book Lewis writes, " If [sorrows] 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." How true! I know there is a God and I know that Gavin has been one of the most enlightening blessings in my life. I wouldn't trade it for anything. In the midst of that initial grief, sorrow, shock and exhaustion I was angry with my circumstances. However, now - two years later - I can relate to what he concludes the book with, "How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back! She said not to me but to the chaplain, 'I am at peace with God.' "
I too, am at peace with God. It has taken a long time to be able to accept Gavin's loss. And while the bombs of grief are dropped on my heart from time to time I have found peace and healing. My heart always aches from missing my sweet baby boy, but I am at peace with God and with Gavin's plan. How fortunate I was to have three months to hold an angel and to be his mother. I know Gavin was at peace when he returned to our Heavenly Father and I know there were many there waiting with open arms to welcome him home.
I also know that someday he will run back into my arms and we can be together again. That is a day I anxiously await - but for now, I am loving this life that I have been given and I have gratitude for the many blessing I have. I am grateful for the knowledge of eternal families and the blessings of comfort I find through that knowledge.
(I hope that this book doesn't bum out all the book club girls. I know many of us have experienced grief in one form or another. This book has so much depth for discussion.)