Book Review: A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

A Grief Observed - C.S. Lewis (Faber & Faber, 2013)
A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis (Faber & Faber, 2013)

I read a review of A Grief Observed recently that suggested this is a book read primarily by the bereaved and I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. This is a book read by those who have experienced loss and who are struggling. I’ve read it once before, more than a decade ago, but it seemed like a book to return to in this time of my life.

A Grief Observed doesn’t have the polish and academic tone of Lewis’ other writings on Christianity. This is Lewis’ journal, his notes and thoughts in the early days and weeks after the death of his wife. It’s raw, it’s painful, and it’s very personal. Lewis doesn’t offer answers for the book’s questions of grief and afterlife and where is God in the suffering. He doesn’t have those answers. He can only ask the questions and try to piece together who God is in spite of the pain.

The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t.

Lewis’ pain and grief is evident on every page; the ache with which he misses his life’s companion is hard to read about. He pushes against and questions God and wonders why and yet he returns to God and to the idea of God’s goodness. Not because it seems evident in his life but because it is what he knows best at the core of his being and grief without God is far worse than grief with God.

While this isn’t a reassuring book, it is a comforting one. It is a book that even all these years later tells the grieving, You are not alone. I find comfort in that. In the reminder that grief is a real and valid thing. That a man I greatly respect and whose wisdom I have benefited from experienced something similar. If misery loves company, A Grief Observed provides a little of that company, while still pointing the reader back to the ultimate source of comfort.

I need Christ, not something that resembles Him.

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