A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

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HORROR


Written with love, humility, and faith, this brief but poignant volume was first published in 1961 and concerns the death of C. S. Lewis's wife, the American-born poet Joy Davidman. In her introduction to this new edition, Madeleine L'Engle writes: "I am grateful to Lewis for having the courage to yell, to doubt, to kick at God in angry violence. This is a part of a healthy grief which is not often encouraged. It is helpful indeed that C. S. Lewis, who has been such a successful apologist for Christianity, should have the courage to admit doubt about what he has so superbly proclaimed. It gives us permission to admit our own doubts, our own angers and anguishes, and to know that they are part of the soul's growth."

Written in longhand in notebooks that Lewis found in his home, A Grief Observed probes the "mad midnight moments" of Lewis's mourning and loss, moments in which he questioned what he had previously believed about life and death, marriage, and even God. Indecision and self-pity assailed Lewis. "We are under the harrow and can't escape," he writes. "I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace." Writing A Grief Observed as "a defense against total collapse, a safety valve," he came to recognize that "bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love."

  “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 curse it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

It's hard to rate a book like this - doesn't feel fully appropriate since it's more an internal dialogue through stages of grief than anything else. C.S. Lewis was always a talented writer, whether penning fiction or non, but this is a diary-style jotting of internal reflections during the horrible stages of losing his wife to cancer.

Written in mini paragraphs that were apparently sections recorded during his thoughts, I can almost picture him waking up at night and unable to go back to sleep, reflecting on something in particular, then casually writing it down on a notebook he kept on the bedside table.

I've read reviews where he goes through phases of grief, anger, and then an almost acceptance. I didn't feel the acceptance as much per se, but more of a fondness for her memory and realizing that to rely too much on memory is never enough.

It's a sad, sobering book that is helpful to read through a person's own grieving process. The raw feelings come clearly through the pages, scattered thoughts almost always disjointed by inner reflections as his mind tries to heal through the trauma he faced.

The book is of course not 'enjoyable' - it's not a self-help, advice book on grief either. It's a personal process that has been shared, a painful experience that clearly comes through his writing. Recommended for those who are going through grief, sometimes sharing through reading and writing is the best form of therapy.


   Book Quotes:

“I once read the sentence 'I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache an about lying awake.' That's true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection: the fact that you don't merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

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Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder* has read 37 books toward her goal of 200 books.
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