Some great thoughts on All Souls from Tony in Jersey.
In his notebook of reflections after the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis on one occasion rails against God as a cosmic vivisectionist – “Is God a loving Father or is God the great vivisectionist?” The hurt is raw, and he needs to hit out at someone, anyone, to make sense of it all. And in his case, the anger is displaced to God.
“I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought. Let me try it over again. Is it rational to believe in a bad God? Anyway, in a God so bad as all that? The Cosmic Sadist, the spiteful imbecile?”
How we cope with grief at the loss of a loved one is complex, and often displacement activities come into play. There is nothing wrong with that. We need to express feelings in a variety of ways. But David gets passed his anger and gets on with his life; he has to, otherwise it will remain as a festering scab, always ready to be picked.
That doesn’t lessen the hurt, or make the journey any easier.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.Â I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.Â The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.Â I keep on swallowing.”
“At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.Â There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.Â I find it hard to take in what anyone says.”
The service at All Souls day at St Brelade’s Church doesn’t take away that hurt, but it does provide a way to remember. Names are called out, and people go forward to light a candle for their loved ones while the chant goes on:
“Kindle a flame to lighten the dark, and take all fear away”
I add the names of those special to me to the list, but also some that I know who have also died, and who leave grieving families. They need to be remembered too. That’s part of the ritual of healing.
And this is a service of healing. The wounds may leave scars, but they must be healed; we must not keep them raw, like an open wound.
That’s the burden of grief, and it can weigh us down. As Seth Carrier notes:
“Rocks of pain and hurt are not easy to remove. But as we begin to heal, the rocks will come out. We may never empty our backpacks completely, but every time we choose the path of forgiveness and healing, and take one more of those grievance story rocks out of our backpack, there is greater peace in our hearts.”
What happens when we do not, is that the past consumes the present, and we cannot let go.
“There are times,” Sister Joan Chittister observes, “to let a thing go.Â There is a time to put a thing down, however unresolved, however baffling, however wrong, however unjust it may be.Â There are some things in life that cannot be changed, however intent we are to change them.Â There is a time to let surrender take over so that the past does not consume the present, so that new life can come, so that joy has a chance to surprise us again.”
The choice is ours.
He’s right. Grief changes you for ever.