A Grief Observed

Everyone has either experienced a tragic loss of life in the family. Perhaps a death in the extended family, or through a friend who might have lost a loved one. For Christians, grief is an especially tough time, taking them through cycles of questions about whether or not God really does love us when such brutally painful events take hold of us.

When author Clive Staples Lewis lost his wife to cancer in the 1960s, he was no different than any of us, finding himself asking the same questions about Gods goodness and love that a lot of us have. Since Lewis had already lived a full life, his loss was deepened by the lack of promises of future happiness a younger person might find some small comfort in.

Yet in the wee hours when his grief and anguish were the most poignant, Lewis - an author all the way - took to filling blank pads of paper in his house with the thoughts and feelings that his bereavement brought.

Even though I have not personally experienced anything near the kind of grief that this book deals with, I still found this book to be an amazing read. The deepest grief Ive ever experienced was the loss of a family pet, yet from that small sampling I can just barely grasp what Lewis went through. Indeed any person not accustomed to grief can begin to understand it by reading the beautiful language that fills the pages of this book.

It is a short book, ringing in with only four chapters, and 76 pages. Yet all of them are filled with the balm of Lewiss reflections and introspection, and all of them are able to help a grieving person, if for nothing else than to know that theyre not alone.

For any person who might be undergoing a period of sorrow, I highly recommend this book. It is not a lot of heavy reading, thus possibly making it easier on someone who is already in such pain. The wonderfully poetic, graceful language gives body and soul to the multitude of emotions that wash through a grieving person, especially in dark hours. These emotions, Im sure, are experienced by everyone, but with the comments and insight of one of Christendoms favorite authors, it makes this work a priceless treasure.

If you, or someone you know is going through a difficult time of loss and heartache, buy this book for them. It is a must-read for anyone in pain.

Lewis wrote this little gem after his beloved wife, Joy, died of cancer. Knowing Lewis to be a man of deep faith and one of the most respected theologians of his day, secure in his beliefs, I was particularly interested in how he would react to such a soul-disemboweling blow. I was not disappointed -- like anyone else, he reeled.

In A GRIEF OBSERVED, his struggle to regain his balance, physically and spiritually, is not unlike my own.

Speaking of the grieving process he writes, "At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want others to be about me. I dread moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me."

He struggles with anger as well as with the things people say to him. His faith is challenged -- he calls God the "great iconoclast," and he speaks of his fears.

Lewiss rambling style is compatible with the confused and jumbled feelings of the bereaved. His anger, sense of bewilderment and suffocation along with recognition and acknowlegment of the feelings and emotions express the too-often inexpressable.

This book is a fine and sensitive treatise on the pain of grieving and the souls journey through the grieving process. I recommend it highly to anyone deep in grief or who is concerned about someone who is grieving.

Read also: A Grain of Wheat

. . . like I do, I strongly suggest We All Fall Down, by Brian Caldwell. Like Lewis, Caldwell takes an intellectual aproach to the concept of Christianity. His novel is very much in the vein of The Screwtape Letters and The Great divorce. I highly recomend it for discriminating Christian readers.
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