“A Grief Observed”, by C.S. Lewis, was published in 1961 under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk, twenty years after his book, “The Problem of Pain.”
Lewis’s wife died at age 45, in 1960 from cancer, only four years after their marriage, leaving him to wonder if it was even possible to return to normality after his loss. Lewis died at age 63, only 3 years after Joy’s death. He expressed the anger and bewilderment that he felt towards God as he moved in and out of different stages of grief, saying at one point, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
“The Problem of Pain” discussed why mankind suffers pain, but the reality of that pain is what “A Grief Observed” is about. Lewis struggles to accept his own prior theories and even his Christian faith throughout the book, but we see a gradual reacceptance of his theories and the reacceptance of the necessity of suffering.
Looking for answers, Lewis said that God is like a surgeon or dentist using pain to awaken his creation to dependence on Him. He adds that labeling pain and suffering as a gift is something that we believe if we accept that God is orchestrating our life for a higher good.
Lewis finally reconciles himself as he looked to “The Son of God who suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” It’s not easy to swallow but suffering, then, is a shared experience with God himself, through Jesus. Depending on your view of the crucifixion, Jesus suffered to pay the penalty and open the doors of heaven to us.” Perhaps our suffering ushers forward the same sort of consciousness. That’s what Lewis seems to be saying.
Quotes from "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
“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."
“Knock and it shall be opened.' But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac?”
“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.”