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.”
Lewis writes his statement of faith with precision, humor, and grace. Yet neither is Lewis reluctant to confess his continuing doubts and his awareness of his own human frailty. This is precisely the quality which suggests that A Grief Observed may become “among the great devotional books of our age.”
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So rich. This was a reread for me, having read passages throughout my life as well as study for a Death and Dying course at university. I get something different out of it every time. I’d recommend it to anyone.
Presented a deeply personal look at life without his wife by his side.
The turmoil, what purpose in grief.
-Moments of agony perhaps preferred as clean and honest. Pain. Mystery. Hope. Sorrow. Suffering. What matter of grief. Cosmic sadist. Questioning. Purpose.
-Philosophical thoughts of the deceased in time and being. Whether religions provides consolation in truth, duty, or form.
-“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in our time of trouble?”
-“Didn’t people dispute once whether the final vision of God was more an act of intelligence or of love?”
Written in a diary, almost epistolary type format at points, casual conversation with self, asking questions of himself and God, attempts to answer some, others left open, makes for a compelling, self-reflective read.
“If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all.”
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