Posture and Relevance of the text to topic of fertility grief
In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis reflects on the death of his wife and the anguish of his grief. While this book specifically addresses the death of a spouse, the way in which Lewis, a man of immense faith, struggles with God is significant for any person of faith who is grieving. Though Lewis’ grief is for one he has lost, those who are grieving infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss can allow Lewis to give voice to their own anguish, to their own wrestling with God in the midst of grief over what has not been or will not be.
What grieving individuals, and their pastors or lay caregivers, can expect to learn glean from the text:
Lewis dares to press against the platitudes that people so often offer in the face of grief. (68). He wonders if God has closed the door against his cries. Though he still believes IN God, he is afraid for what he may come to believe ABOUT God. (6). He asks whether it is rational to believe in a bad God. (30). He lays bare his wounds and, in so doing, validates the wounds of so many who are grieving.
Further more, Lewis articulates what it feels like to grieve. He says that grief feels like fear (33) and suspense (33, 47) and “just hanging about waiting for something to happen” (33). He says “[u]p till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.” (33). Though experiences with grief vary widely, his descriptions are helpful to those who are grieving and to communities of friends and family wishing to understand.
Suggestions for best use
This text is not only a quick and accessible read, but widely considered to be a landmark text for talking openly about grief. It is an important resource clergy, lay leaders, and those who are grieving. Suggestions for best use include:
- A resource kept on hand by faith communities to be given as an offering of validation and support to those experiencing grief – fertility grief included!
- A resource for families or close friends who are struggling to grasp the fertility grief of one they love.
Buried in this text is a passage about the grief that a mother experiences upon the death of her child. Lewis is not really intending to address this grief in its own right. On the contrary, he is admonishing those who carelessly warn against mourning. He uses a mourning mother as an example of one whose own happiness has been destroyed but who may, nonetheless, be able to take comfort in the idea that her child is with God,.
This is a sticky passage. The claims that Lewis makes may be spot on, but they carry liability. Of the mother, he says that losing her child is “losing her chief or only natural happiness” and that “maternal happiness must be written off.” His poignant acknowledgement that “[n]ever, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him or tell him a story…” (26) might knock the wind out of one who is not expecting to find such a description here. It is important for one who is experiencing fertility to grief to know that his passage is there, and that it is making another point entirely – that sometimes happiness is gone and quoting scriptures will not bring it back.