I will be the first to admit that I am a voracious reader and have a deep appreciation for a wide range of content- much of which would not interest most people. I enjoy reading about life from other people’s perspectives and viewing it through their filters. I believe there is a nugget to gain from everything I read. Some books contain only a single nugget that I really must dig deep to gain and some books are gold mines full of nuggets. I love discovering gold. A Grief Observed is definitely a goldmine of wisdom and profound insight. I am constantly recommending this book as well as repurchasing this book for my own personal collection because I always end up giving away my copy of the book to someone.
A Grief Observed was written in 1960 after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman. She passed away due to cancer after sharing only three years of marriage together. The book was born from the personal journals C.S. Lewis poured himself into after her death. He expresses deeply moving raw emotion and gives a hauntingly honest account of his journey through the grief process. The tragic loss of a loved one shakes one to the core and causes everything to be questioned. C.S. Lewis boldly offers a window into his deepest thoughts, feelings, and fears during this time of overwhelming grief. The book was originally published in 1961 under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk because he wished to avoid being identified as the author. It wasn’t until after his own death in 1963 that the book was republished citing himself as the author.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Main Lesson to be learned:
The grief process and moving forward.
Who should read it?
Everyone. While this book is about the death of a spouse and is a great resource for the loss of a loved one, everyone would benefit from reading this book. We are constantly moving through the grief cycle in our own lives. We experience loss from the second we are born and continue to do so until we die. Life is seasonal and we move from one season to another. If we don’t understand how to grieve a season’s end, we will become unable to welcome the new season’s beginning. Our ability to grieve and cope with loss so that we may move forward directly impacts our quality of life.
Some notable quotes from the book:
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.
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 in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
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.”
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?…Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”
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.”
God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.”
For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.
My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.
Oh God, God, why did you take such trouble to force this creature out of its shell if it is now doomed to crawl back — to be sucked back — into it?
…for the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress.
The most precious gift that marriage gave me was the constant impact of something very close and intimate, yet all the time unmistakably other, resistant – in a word, real.
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.
You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears. You can’t, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can’t get the best out of it.
He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.
Still, there’s no denying that in some sense I ‘feel better,’ and with that comes at once a short of shame, and a feeling that one is under a sort of obligation to cherish and foment and prolong one’s unhappiness.
Something quite unexpected has happened. It came this morning early. For various reasons, not in themselves at all mysterious, my heart was lighter than it had been for many weeks.