An Odd Byproduct of Loss

j0407442 (1)“An odd byproduct of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate if it they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether… I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”  C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (pg. 10)

Maybe Lewis is right, maybe the bereaved and everyone whose life just simply doesn’t resemble a Halmark card should be separated from the “happy” members of society the way lepers are separated from the healthy.  Not only would it save the people unable or unwilling to address some of life’s not-so-happy moments the awkwardness, but it might also create a society where it’s okay to not always feel or be okay.  It might. 

The trouble is, even if there isn’t a visible barrier,  grief does isolate people from the rest of the world—the strained smiles, fidgety, short, and awkward conversations make it challenging for a mourner to be anything but isolated.  I can’t blame someone for not understanding perfectly, everyone’s grief is unique even if they’ve lost the same person, but the social isolation resulting from a lack of upbeat and perky happenings is challenging to negotiate.

After reading A Grief Observed, a compilation of C.S. Lewis’ journal entries from after his wife passed away,  I didn’t come away with answers, but it was encouraging just to know I’m not alone as I ask my questions that have no answers, when religious comfort that’s offered seems trite and cold, and I feel isolated from society.  Sometimes, it’s helpful to simply know you’re not alone.


4 thoughts on “An Odd Byproduct of Loss

  1. A grief Observed is one of my favorite books by Lewis….no tidy easy answers…’s the deal, until a Christian has experienced real loss first hand, then I am not really that interested in listening to their theories of how others should respond in certain situations. I’m not privy to the details of your life, obviously, but I’m sensing you’ve been dealing with some heavy duty stuff lately…. If that is the case then I hope that you have at least 1 or 2 wise safe people in your life with whom you can share your raw unedited feelings. DM

  2. “A Grief Observed” is a wonderful book–raw, real, and no trite religious answers. It’s one of my favorites by Lewis, too.

    I completely agree, I’m not really interest in listening to someone’s theories about how to handle life and all the crap it sometimes throws at you unless someone has experienced real, heartbreaking loss.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  3. My mom and I went to a youth leaders retreat about a month after her father and my grandfather died unexpectedly. It was utterly surreal to be there (it was required for our training) with this huge thing that had happened to us looming larger than anything else in our thoughts and the people around us either not knowing or (rightly) focused on the purposes of the retreat. We didn’t really talk to anyone else except each other for the entire weekend. Later, my mom said that she saw the point of the old-fashioned custom of wearing mourning and not going out in public for a while. You didn’t have to deal with other people not understanding and when you did go out, people gave you that extra space and consideration. Thinking back, there would have been a lot of good things about that practice.

    • I completely agree. A couple years ago I took a class, the Sociology of Death and Dying, that dealt a lot with mourning rituals. After taking the class I felt like I had a much better understanding of why people use to wear black. Before I’d thought it seemed weird and morbid, but then I realized it’d actually be very helpful to have everyone know what you were going through. People wouldn’t accidentally say stupid things because they had no idea what was going on and the people in mourning wouldn’t have to try and figure out how to tell everyone. I thought that wearing black would making people feel separated from society, but I think I feel much more separated when no one has any idea what is going on.


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