On Grief

In 1961, N.W. Clerk published a small book about grief.  The book, drawn from notebooks he’d kept after the death of his wife, was a blunt and emotional account of his grieving process.

In words that resonated with many, Clerk wrote that after his wife died he felt like one of his limbs had been amputated.  He was also overcome by a strange sense of fear.  “No one ever told me,” he wrote, “that grief felt so much like fear.  I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.”

The author died in 1963, and soon after, Clerk’s publisher revealed that the book had not been written by a man named Clerk after all but by C.S. Lewis, under a pen name.

Lewis was a professor at Oxford and a widely acclaimed author.  Why had he felt the need to hide behind a pen name when he wrote about grief?

Only Lewis himself knows the answer to that question, but I wonder if part of the reason Lewis hid behind the pen name was because he felt shame about his grief.  Maybe he didn’t want others to know how deeply he’d been hollowed out by loss.

It’s hard to know what to do when you or someone you love suffers a loss.  While many people like to offer up saccharine reassurances of heavenly reunions, that’s often not very helpful.  Lewis, though a devout Christian himself, felt these platitudes were little more than misguided attempts to wallpaper over a gaping hole left in the heart.

Healing takes effort and work.  Lewis worked through his grief and eventually came to see the pain of loss as “a universal and integral part of our experience of love.”  Grief is “not a truncation of the process (of love) but one of its phases.”  In other words, grief is often the final stage of loving someone.

Many people who struggle with this final phase of love are helped by short term counseling.  If that’s you, then Deerfield is here to help.

 

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