A Grief Observed
Some have called it one of the greatest devotional books of our time. I say it is a book every grieving individual should read. Originally published in 1961, A Grief Observed, under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk, by C.S. Lewis, is a must read.
The book is a collection of longhand journal entries Lewis wrote for a time after the death of his bride, the American-born poet Helen (“H”) Joy Davidman.
A Grief Observed is a tender book. It is a book written in love and humility by a man nearly crippled by his grief.
A Grief Observed is also a raw book. It is raw because the author is willing to confess his doubts and his weakness as a child of God.
I re-read C.S. Lewis’ book recently, after purchasing a copy for a friend who is grieving. If you are grieving, I recommend A Grief Observed. If you know someone who is grieving, especially someone who is grieving the death of his or her spouse, I suggest you purchase a copy for them.
The following are just a few quotes from this great work.
The writer of the foreword and the author of the introduction, Lewis’ stepson, offer two insights early in the work:
The death of a beloved is an amputation (Foreword, xii, Madeleine L’Engle).
For the greater the love the greater the grief (Introduction, xxii, Douglas H. Gresham).
On how grief challenges your faith, Lewis writes:
You never know how much you really believe anything until it its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you (22).
On the easy answers of religion, he responds:
Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect you don’t understand (25).
Regarding the pain his wife encountered in death, the author summarizes:
Why should separation (if nothing else), which so agonizes the lover who is left behind be painless to the lover who departs (27).
With regard to the testing of his faith, Lewis expounds:
God has not been trying an experiment in my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this 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 (52).
Describing grief, he writes:
Grief is a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape (60).
Perhaps one of the more poignant thoughts came toward the end of his book:
It 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 (68).
Again, I recommend A Grief Observed, even if you are not grieving.