C.S Lewis and Grief

C.S Lewis is a classical English writer of the 20th Century.  His observations on grief are insightful as well intense as he documents the grief felt of losing the wife, H.  Throughout, his work, “A Grief Observed” (originally published in 1961),  the loss torments the writer as he proceeds through the various struggles of an English Christian husband who lost a wife.   His struggle includes the intensity of the pain of the grief and its many adjectives and similes, as well as the outward feelings towards others, his past, his beliefs, his anger, his desolation, and finally his renewal.  In it one sees the numerous phases and oscillations of the messy roadmap of mourning. It is not only an emotional journey, but also a philosophical one that questions pain and suffering and how it can co-exist with a good God.  It captures the the progress and regression of how one laments one day but rejoices the next, curses another but venerates later.  It is in essence a progression of grief that illustrates the despair, the anger, and ultimately the adjustment to the loss.  It does not offer a true happy ending but an appeasement and contentment that naturally overtime proceeds from loss.  One never truly heals from loss but learns to live without but with a sprinkle of hope.


C.S Lewis masterfully captures some of the raw emotion associated with intense and acute grief following loss.  He states, “Noone ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning and swallowing” (Lewis, C.S, p. 1).   He continues that it sometimes feels like “invisible blanket between the world and me” (Lewis, C.S. p. 1).

C.S Lewis masterfully captures the raw pain and existential crisis caused by the loss of a loved one. Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Certification


Lewis mentions the continual acute phases of grief that overtake him.  He feels fatigue that prevents him from doing the littlest things, such as even shaving (Lewis, C.S. p.3).    In the grief, he feels the shame of being seen by others in public.  He comments how some wish to walk away, or others try to say the right thing or how an younger married couple may think that he is a symbol of their future (Lewis, C.S. p. 10-11).   He also fears publics places he once ventured.  He is afraid to return too soon to places where he and H. once shared good times.  He compares it to as “sending a pilot up again as soon as possible after he’s had a crash” (Lewis, C.S. p. 11).   He in particular takes offense to the good willed sayings of others within the congregation who remark that H. is now in God’s hands.  This only frustrates him more, as he asks, if she is in God’s hands, how can it be any better, if she was in God’s hands on Earth and suffered? (Lewis, C.S. p. 27).   This is an excellent example of how in grief counseling, individuals should not try to fix the bereaved but sojourn with them and acknowledge the pain instead of trying to lift it.

A great fear of most grievers is losing the memory of a beloved.  Lewis is haunted by the fear of losing her memory.   He states, “I have no photograph of her that’s any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination” (Lewis, C.S. p. 15).   Others tell him, she will live in your memory, but he laments that idea of living.   He exclaims in fear and anguish, “What’s left?  A corpse, a memory and (in some versions) a ghost? All mockeries or horrors.  Three more ways of spelling the word dead” (Lewis, C.S. p. 20). He further revels in the fear of those who have finally come to peace with loss.  He remarks how he cannot envision how a man with a hoe and watering pot visiting the churchyard, happily exclaimed it was time to visit “mum”.   Lewis remarks, “A six-by-three foot flower-bed has become mum” (Lewis, C.S. p.21).  Yet, Lewis is not yet at the point to understand the continuation of bonds.  The pain is still too raw, too soon, and too painful.

Wishing to see her again also, sways him back from grief to guilt.  He wishes to see her but then sees this wish to bring her back is a selfish love.  He corrects himself and realizes that this self pity is horribly selfish and to wish her back is a cruel endeavor, especially with the suffering she endured to escape this world.  He speculates, “They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal? (Lewis, C.S., p. 41).

He reviews within his mind a mixed guilt of possibly getting over something too soon.  Someone truly does not recover from such an operation.  He compares this grief to someone losing a leg.  One learns to adjust, but it forever affects oneself.  When one awakes, or dresses, the reality is always there, even if one finds joy in day to day situations.

He also asks himself though, if there is shame in finding happiness, or if one is obligated to prolong one’s own unhappiness (Lewis, C.S. p.52-53).  This is classical in grieving.  One feels an obligation to grieve a certain time.  Grief has no time table and each individual needs to process the grief and then without guilt, heal. It is obvious that Lewis understands this concept but poetically displays the inner pain of those who suffer loss.


Within the initial shockwaves of pain, Lewis articulates his frustration and anger with God.  He points out that God is always around when one is happy, but when you need Him, he refers to it as ” a door slammed in your face” (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He does not fully come to any conclusion to deny the existence of God, although he does question the goodness of God.  He points out that Christ too was forsaken, but does that make it easier to understand? (Lewis, C.S. p.6).  He begins to view God as being who really does not care.  In later chapters, he reflects on this anger. He states, “All that stuff about the Cosmic Sadist was not so much the expression of thought as of hatred.  I was getting from it the only pleasure a man can get; the pleasure of hitting back”.  He continues that what he thought he knew was not true, but felt that at least it might offed him or other worshippers (Lewis, C.S. p. 40)

Many become angry with God in the initial phases of grief but according to Lewis the door is never slammed shut and bolted. He is always with us


Philosophically, Lewis does not dismiss the existence of God, but in acute grief, comments how one may believe God is far from good.  He points out that “Is it rational to believe in a bad God?  Anyway, in a God so bad as all that?  The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile? (Lewis, C.S, p.30).  He wonders if this is good, then how is God good?  He later reprimands himself for feeling this, but continues to question the reason for this cruel suffering.   He laughs at himself how once he could tell those who suffered loss that their beloved one is in a better place.   He remarks that he knew bad things could happen and even warned and prepared himself not to place happiness in the world, but he points out that once it happens to you, it is far different.   Once being a source of faith, he know sees his faith as a house that has collapsed.  He states, “If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it a house of cards” (Lewis, C.J. p. 37).  He mocks how he once so easily gave advice, but now cannot it for himself.  Was it because he truly did not care about others, or that he never truly understood the severity of it?


Stemming from the long suffering and pain, Lewis slowly begins to heal.  He begins to realize his love remains and he can even sometimes hear his wife in a different way.  He remarks his great fear of losing her memory, but now has a sense of her.  He comments, “She seems to meet me everywhere.  Meet is far too strong a word.  I don’t mean anything remotely like an apparition or voice.  I don’t mean even any strikingly emotional experience at any particular moment.  Rather, a sort of unobtrusive but massive sense that she is, just as much as ever, a fact to be taken into account” (Lewis, C.S, p. 51). He also remembers how easily he could misjudge a man in a similar situation who now has happiness despite the loss. He remarks, ” I might have said, ‘He’s got over it.  He’s forgotten his wife’. but the truth was, ‘He remembers her better because he has partly got over it'”(Lewis, C.S., p.45).


Lewis learns that healing is not forgetting but remembering in a healthy way.  Please also review AIHCP’s Grief and Christian Grief Counseling Certifications


He further remarks that even with God, he no longer feels the door is slammed shut.  He states that sometimes God is there but one is too frantic to hear or be saved, as if a drowning man kicking and screaming (Lewis, C.S. p 46).   He asks if God is the vet or the vivisector (Lewis, C.S. p. 40).  Is God truly healing and helping the person through the pain into a better life. Lewis ultimately understands that God does not wish suffering but walks with the sufferers and relieves them of the pain and transforms them into life.  While those on Earth, may not understand the ultimate mystery, and may refuse to hear, God is not the sadist, he thought in anger, but a rescuer.   He sees God as the giver and H. as the gift.  H. becomes the garden and God the gardener, or H. the sword and God the smith.  God perfects His gifts in the next life and this gives Lewis comfort (Lewis, C.S. p. 62-63).

He confirms to himself that the road to H. is through God, but he also corrects himself and reminds himself that God should never be a means to an end.  He realizes that through loving God, he loves H. and they will find union in that love together (Lewis, C.S., p. 68-69).   He furthermore realizes that God no longer did not answer his knocking of the door or reject his needs.  Lewis states, “it is not the locked door.  It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As through He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question.  Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand'”(Lewis, C.S. p. 69).


From a Christian perspective, Lewis explains the emotional pain of losing someone and still being a believer.  He triumphantly captures the nature of grief but also adds elements of Christian grieving.  He proceeds through the phases and oscillations of grief and faces many existential questions.  While reading the words, one truly can start to prepare or recall the true abandonment one can face in the pain of grief and how hard it is again to find solace and peace.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program.  Those who are already Grief certified are eligible for the specialty program.  Like the Grief Counseling Certification, the Christian Grief Counseling Certification is online and independent study.


“A Grief Observed”. Lewis, C.S. (1961).  Harper Collins Publishers. (1994)

Additional Resources

“C.S. Lewis”. (2021). Biography.  Access here

“C. S. Lewis”. Wikipedia.  Access here

“A GRIEF OBSERVED”. Harmon, J. (2013). C.S Lewis Institute.  Access here

“The boredom and the fear of grief”. Grady, C. (2021). Vox. Access here

Christian Grief Counseling Video on the Story of Job and Loss

Suffering in Christianity is transformative.  Through Christ, the Redeemer and Suffering Servant, suffering and death was forever altered.  Through death is resurrection and life over sin.  The story of Job is a prefigurement of Christ, or one who suffers without cause.

Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Grief Counselor


Please also review the video below

Christian Grief Counseling Program Article on Christianity and Grief

Good article about how Christian hope can the grieving see that grief and loss are only temporary.  This is the nature of Christianity and its view of suffering. It does not seek to escape grief, but embrace knowing that it is only temporary and has merit on this earth

The article, Christian faith creates hope that alters grief, by Very Rev. John D. Payne states,

“An aerial view of Egypt might shed some light on the ancient Egyptian fixation with death. Running the length of Egypt for some 3,400 miles, from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea, is the Nile River. Only about a quarter of a mile on either side of the river is living green.”

To read the entire article, please click here

Please also review our Grief Counseling Program, as well as our Christian Grief Counseling Program

Christian Suffering and Survivor Grief

Christian Suffering and Facing Traumatic Events

The deep emotional scars of survival from a traumatic event of terrorism, plague, natural disaster, or war can be devastating to the human soul. Such evil and mass death can cripple the person from properly healing and continuing one’s life story. While Christian grief looks at such events within the prism of God’s love and how his love can shine through the evils of men and the natural sufferings of the world, one cannot elevate this suffering to new heights until the human psyche is healed. Traumatic and   

complicated grief is the end result in these cases and the person is unable to recover. The natural grief recovery is stifled by the severity of the grief inflicted upon the person. In these cases, grief counseling is only the start. In many cases, professional licensed counselors are called upon to administer grief therapy and supply medication when needed.

A pioneer grief specialist in survivors of traumatic grief is Robert Lifton. Lifton defines a survivor as someone who has faced death and has remained alive. As a survivor who faces death, or mass death, Lifton listed five characteristics. These five characteristics are critical to understanding the nature and mindset of a survivor.

The Five Themes

The first psychological theme is the death print. The death print is the images or memories of the death event. They can cause death anxiety and can be recalled with clarity many years later. Many survivors are haunted by the desire to replay the image of death over and over until they can find a more acceptable outcome.
The second theme is death guilt. Many survivors are tormented by survival guilt. This guilt manifests from the fact that others died and they did not. This is especially the case with parents who may lose a child. In other cases, death guilt can also manifest due to lack of proper performance in stressful situations. Some people will feel extreme guilt because they did not do this or that and due to inability failed to save someone.
The third theme is psychic numbing which can accompany chronic depression. Due to this phenomenon, someone’s crucial components of self are disassociated with the ego. This numbing in some cases is a self defense mechanism. Recovery from this involves intensive therapy to feel again.
The fourth theme according to Lifton is “suspicion of counterfeit nurturance”. This deals with the feelings that survivors have with interpersonal relationships. For the most part it manifests when survivors are reluctant to receive support because they refuse to admit to the damage the trauma has caused his or her soul.
The final theme is formulation. This is the struggle the survivor has to find meaning out of life after a traumatic ordeal . How does the traumatic event fit into the life story of the person? How does the person bridge the past to the future?
These five common themes of survivors are all elements a grief counselor will have to deal with as they rebuild the psyche of a person who has experienced a traumatic event of any type. In the end, the essential task of a survivor is to find meaning of the trauma and connect the loss to their life story. One must find a way to assert continuity of life while remaining true to the past traumatic event. After identifying these themes in a person who has experienced traumatic grief, a counselor needs to work on each aspect and gradually rebuild the person and open the door to creating and reconstructing 
meaning in the person’s life. We will in future blogs review this process, but it is important to note, a Christian counselor of grief should also integrate the sufferings of Christ and point to Christ as a paradigm. Christ’s suffering ultimately is the most traumatic event in human history. One must unify his or her suffering under his cross to finally rise from the ashes as Christ did. Through hope in Christ, all wounds can be healed, even the most traumatic.
Please review the Christian Grief Counseling Program

By Mark Moran,MA