My Father, CS Lewis, Grief & Raw Compulsion



First off, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog and not necessarily because of me, but in spite of me. It makes me happy. As I’ve continued to prod and explore deep inside my bones and all above, below and around me, I’ve realised that I’ve shared a lot of very personal things. And frankly, I don’t intend to stop. And so to that end, I thought I’d share some more about my father; it’s Father’s Day here in America next week and I can’t escape it.

If you don’t know me from a bar of soap, my father passed away in 2008 from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It’s only now, eight years later, that I can write words on this experience. Before? Forget about it. Grief is an elusive beast. At some point after his death, although I can’t remember when because my memory of that period is hazy, someone gave me a copy of C.S Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Most people, myself included, know Lewis for that most magical of series, The Chronicles of Narnia, but his primary work was teaching English at Oxford.  Not only did he gravitate toward brilliance in conversation, but also in correspondence. That’s how he met his wife, Joy. Joy was a recent convert from Judaism, and they began writing to each other (ah, sweet love letters). Eventually, the two married but she died three years later. The book is a collection of his journal entries that were compiled as he struggled through the mourning process. Here’s a gem that resonated early on:

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course, it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

I think the first year my father was gone I was on autopilot. I was also in a relationship with someone who had people around him continually serving as a good distraction from the seemingly purely physical pain I was feeling. My heart ached in such a way that an overstrained muscle does. Except it never dissipated. Not for a long, long time. My pain threshold must have gone up immeasurably. That’s why I’m convinced I managed to climb Kilimanjaro and put myself through all manner of physical feats. I thought: if it hurts this much, might as well go with it. Also, physical distractions were vital to me in those early years. If I had felt the full weight of his loss, I think I would have died of a broken heart. Truly.

“No one 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. I keep on swallowing.”

I’m not nearly as restless now as I was during the initial years after my dad died, but I recognise when I’m heading for another significant grieving cycle because I become fidgety and angsty. And about when I become a whirling dervish, BAM, grief stops me in my tracks.

There is no recipe for dealing with pain, but my hope in starting to open up the doors and write about it is that I can be of some help to ‘restless’ souls like myself, and maybe even bid my own ghosts farewell. “The death of a beloved is an amputation,” Lewis wrote, but more than that, “The same leg is cut off time after time.” I think what I’ve learned is that life is to be embraced in all its messiness. And actually, the messier the better, because even in our darkest times, we aren’t other than our flawed and jumbled selves. And that’s pretty damn grand.



22 replies on “My Father, CS Lewis, Grief & Raw Compulsion

  • Renee Feinstein

    My heart breaks and aches, and yet so proud of your strength and courage to express your feelings publically, beautifully and as ever, with soul

  • TK

    You took something that is so hard to encapsulate and describe, and did it so eloquently and beautifully.

    Thank you for being a shining light and a sister in arms…thank you for giving me comfort and hope.

  • Lisa K

    It is because you love so deeply that your pain runs so deep. You are an alive and vibrant soul who I am so happy to have in my life

  • Isy

    Darling K someone gave me the same book after Joe died and I felt like you – the only book that shared my senses of loss … And confusion and fearfulness and anger. And I have given it on to everyone I have loved who has lost someone they love. Do you know he wrote it in a few days in an old exercise book he found at home and wrote until he reached the end of the book – and then that was it. He said he had worked through his pain and his anger at God. It’s why it’s so slim and so powerful, it’s raw and intelligent and completely personal and deals with the biggest fear we ever face.

  • Annabelle Mitzman

    The choice of tarot card The World shows you have found unity and balance by mastering your own World and putting yourself in the centre of it. Such knowledge and wisdom can take a lifetime to master.
    You are the beautiful butterfly in the top left hand corner, who has struggled free and will fly high.
    Love this piece, thank you for sharing your heart and soul.

  • Elisabeth

    darling Kayla, thank you for sharing those innermost painful thoughts, words, feelings …yes it takes time, I have yet a long way to go in dealing with my grief and the loss of my mother! wonderful and blessed and grateful to have you in my life

  • Daniel

    Composed with such clear thinking. So hard to do when emotions are involved. Brilliant, lovely Kayla. Beautifully written. A masterpiece X

  • Robin Jacobs

    So beautifully written Kayla I know that Micky would have been so proud of you, keep up the great work you are doing

  • Sary

    A very moving and touching piece. Beautifully written and so respectful of your process. May his soul shine light onto you always. ?

  • Suzanne Lerner

    Kayla, what a beautiful piece of writing about your father and grief and love and pain. Thank you for this as my emotions are so raw and hidden. It is so good to read your words…painful yes but brings me to tears thinking of Micky and Mikey. You are so strong and so gifted to share this with us. Xoxo

  • Jeanette Marcus

    K. You are a poet of note , using your life’s experiences Even to be able to express your feelings in this awesome way doesn’t take away pain , but it does put the fuzziness into their places , giving you space to carry on,
    And also helping others cope with their sadness. So proud of you.

  • Enid

    This thread about your beloved Dad, so exquisitely written and the deeply moving, bursting with heart-felt honesty thread about your beautiful Mom, woven together with the vibrant, gentle and insanely poetic thread that is you – if I could draw a picture of these 3 threads it would resemble the DNA double helix. You are the rungs on that ladder Kayla. Your Mom and Dad the sides. xxx


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