A Grief Observed (Faber Paperbacks)

by C. S. Lewis

Paperback, 1966





Faber & Faber (1966), 64 pages

Original publication date



0571066240 / 9780571066247


A classic work on grief, A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis's honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. Written after his wife's tragic death as a way of surviving the "mad midnight moments," A Grief Observed an unflinchingly truthful account of how loss can lead even a stalwart believer to lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and the inspirational tale of how he can possibly regain his bearings.

User reviews

LibraryThing member phebj
I first heard of this book on the “What are We Reading: Religion” thread on LT. It describes Lewis’ journey through grief after the death of his wife (“H”) from cancer. He writes very honestly of his anguish and loneliness and how surprisingly little consolation he finds in other people
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or his religion in the first days after H’s death.

"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? . . . I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find I didn’t."

Lewis’ initial goal in writing this book was to describe the “state” of sorrow but he discovers that it’s more of a process and by the end of the book, while he is still on his journey, he’s made alot of progress and, when he turns “to God, my mind no longer meets that locked door.”

I haven’t experienced the kind of grief that Lewis describes nor am I religious so I was surprised to like this book as much as I did. I think it was a combination of how good a writer Lewis is and how honest he was about what he was going through that attracted me the most. In comparison to how detailed Lewis is about his initial grief, I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t clearer how he was finally able to move on to a better place. As he says, “there was no sudden, striking and emotional transition. Like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight. When you first notice them they have already been going on for some time.”
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LibraryThing member maggief927
I have listened to this book several times on CD since the death of my husband. So far it comes the closest to describing what I find to be indescribable, the grief felt when one loses their soul mate and the inability to put the loss into perspective for those on the outside. I recommend this for
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anyone who has lost someone close or to someone who is trying to understand someone elses grief.
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LibraryThing member aslikeanarnian
For someone who has suffered a similarly deep loss as Lewis, this book is a comfort. When I read this book, I often find myself underlining something that I have thought or felt or wondered as I've made my way through my own grief. If you've never experienced grief, this is the most realistic
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account I've ever read. "A Grief Observed" is a gut-wrenching book to read, but I find it utterly amazing every time I read it.
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LibraryThing member peacemover
In "A Grief Observed," C.S. Lewis allows the reader to walk with him on his journey through grief. He was a brilliant scholar and Oxford professor whom people looked to for answers and meaning when suddenly his world was turned upside down by the loss of his wife Joy, who died of cancer in her 40s.
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In the book, he explores honestly the depth of his anguish and his search to find comfort and hope in the midst of the despair of loss.

Lewis describes many of the multitude of emotions that grief can bring, and also the seemingly endless barrage of unanswered questions he found himself asking. Ultimately he finds comfort and hope in his faith, but not before journey through a time of anguish and questioning God- even expressing his anger and shock at the loss.

If you have lost a close loved one, or know someone who has, this book may be a great source of comfort in the midst of grief. I facilitate a grief support group, and a number of people have found it to be very helpful in coping with the loss of a family member or close friend. I have also found it to be a helpful source of comfort and hope in facing some of the losses in my life.

I would highly recommend it to anyone facing grief and loss, as well as for caregivers, clergy and counselors who work with the bereaved.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This slender book--only 76 pages in four chapters--is both raw and powerful. I do understand why one reviewer spoke of feeling distaste that something so personal was published. I think that's its strength though. Yes, I almost wanted to look away. I've felt conflicted at times about Lewis' work. I
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admire him as a writer, but disagree strongly with many aspects of his worldview. For one, I'm no believer in any aspect of the supernatural, am no Christian, and Christianity defines him and his works. But I think particularly because I've read so much by Lewis, I can't help but see him as a sort of friend. And not even knowing he died before I was born keeps me from flinching from the pain on the page.

But I also admire his willingness to expose that pain. And this is a book not just about pain, about loss--but about love. About his love for his lost wife, who obviously greatly enriched his life, and yes, in the end his love for God that Lewis tries so hard to find again in the face of feeling shut out when he needs God most. He talks about his faith being like this rope that seemed strong and secure when it only needed to bind a box, but doesn't seem so secure when he was using it to hang above an abyss. I think there's something so very brave, nay heroic, in spending a long career as a Christian apologist and then be willing to bare not just your pain, but your doubt. And because Lewis is a superb writer, there were so many lines here that resonated--particularly the line, "Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state, but a process."
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LibraryThing member jphamilton
I've been an atheist all my 64 years, but I recently lost my wife of many years to cancer. Having that in common with Lewis, got me between the covers of this slim book. Being able to relate so strongly to someone that I'd never enjoyed before, was an interesting experience. His raw writings on his
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loss and grief were very similar to my own journal writings of late. I felt closer to his angry words about a cruel god, than his return to his faith at the book's end, but we're all different when it comes to whatever faith we may have. I'm glad to have read his words. The drive to read the words of someone else who has suffered a similar pain is a strong force.
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LibraryThing member meandmybooks
As Madeleine L'Engle says in her introduction, “each experience of grief is unique,” and Lewis was a quirky sort of fellow. His grieving for his wife, so dearly cherished during their far-too-brief marriage, is explored through the format of passionate journal entries. As with others of his
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works, I find that our thoughts on the issue of theodicy – the problem of pain and a benevolent, all-powerful God – aren't quite the same. Still, his experience of the progression of loss and pain, of struggle to reconcile belief and emotion, of fear of the loss of memories, etc., have elements which much surely be nearly universal, and his honesty is comforting.
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LibraryThing member MonicaMusik
I decided to read this book because I too was asking some serious questions and feeling that God and Christianity in general just didn't have all of the answers. I was especially curious to see how someone like C.S. Lewis would address the subject of death and dying. After all, here is a man that
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makes his living manipulating words. How would he describe the processes of grief? Would he find words adequate enough or would he just flail in the dark searching for the same answers that I was unable to come up with?

In the end I'm not sure if it's actually possible to critique his efforts because they are born out of his own experience. He was open, honest, and at times naked in his writing. Whether you agree with his views or not I think it's definitely worth your while to read this book. I'm not sure if it will make sense to the merely curious but to those who know what grief is I think it will be a raw and emotional journey through the process of sorrow from one who has experienced it firsthand.
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LibraryThing member matthewgray
not dogmatic, but still written by a man of faith, who is honestly sharing his struggles in grief. By the author's own admission, not all that is said in these pages is fully reliable, his thoughts are many and varied and confused at times. But this helps to understand the confusion and what grief
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can be like. And he is of course lucid in his style, and insightful, which helps greatly. A good book to have for reflection, and pastoral understanding, although not necessarily for comfort to those going through grief.
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LibraryThing member ReadandFindOut
Excellent excellent excellent. The afterword was alright, but Lewis' actual text was phenomenal. This is actually the journals that he wrote after the death of his wife Joy. Seeing him feeling and then examining his grief, and the implications it had on his faith, was so intriguing.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
C.S. Lewis wrote this after the death of his beloved wife. Their time together was short, but it was all the more poignant because their connection was so intense. He was left wishing for all the years they might have had together. He is so honest about his pain making him question his faith.

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one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
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LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
A Grief Observed is the journal C. S. Lewis kept after losing his wife, Joy, to cancer. In it he pours out his feelings, as his faith is battered by the storms of grief. I felt a bit awkward reading it, kind of like I was standing around, gawking at a car accident. On one hand, you want to see
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what's happening, but on the other you don't want to intrude on another's misfortune and sorrow. Of course, reading a published book is hardly an intrusion on anyone. The book was an interesting way to consider my own beliefs without having to personally suffer the loss of my wife.
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LibraryThing member wvlibrarydude
A great travel through Lewis' suffering of loss and grief. It really helped me face some of the issues I'm going through right now with dad's death.

Not a normal book with any clear sense or structure. Just random thoughts and notes. Real gems come through every so many pages. It really gives a
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sense of the emotional and intellectual struggles of someone grieving.
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LibraryThing member AngeloMarcos
I have been a huge admirer of CS Lewis for a very long time, and I also read a lot of Christian literature, apologetics, theology, and so on, which often reference CS Lewis and specifically this book. Even after all that though, this book was still absolutely not what I expected.

I read the entire
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book in one sitting (which isn’t the achievement that it may sound as the book is very short), and found it to be a very raw account of CS Lewis' grief. There were actually some parts of it where I almost felt I shouldn’t be reading it at all - as if I had opened a door, found a man wracked with grief and railing against God, and just stood there watching him for a while.

It was very interesting to see the change in him between the first and last chapters, but I was left feeling that the book was incomplete. I know that it isn’t supposed to be a 'story' with a beginning, middle and end, but I had hoped that there would be a kind of redemption - a rebuttal of his earlier arguments against God, an acknowledgement that there is a 'light at the end of the tunnel'. This was touched upon, but not with the same force that the original arguments were made earlier on in the book.

I would definitely recommend this book, but with a note of caution - this book is, very much as the title states, an observation of another person's grief. This may be helpful to some who have been recently bereaved, but might be quite distressing to others. If a person is already in a fragile state, they may not quite be ready to walk with CS Lewis in his grief too.
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LibraryThing member davegregg
This is one of the most remarkable books I've ever known. It is, in my experience, the best work of short nonfiction in Christian literary history. Regardless, it is certainly one of the most poignant. I feel inadequate to explain further, but being so brief a book, I see no reason why you
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shouldn't read it.For those of you who struggle with completing nonfiction, I will tell you that you likely will have no such problem with "A Grief Observed". It's emotionally, psychologically, philosophically, and theologically compelling, applicable to personal experience, and fascinating down to each and every vivid sentence. I for one make it my intent, with delight, to read it many times again.
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LibraryThing member antiquary
Painfully honest account of Lewis's reaction to his wife's death. I do not enjoy it or find it comforting, but I respect it greatly.
LibraryThing member cewilliams3674
This book draws the reader in and through its brief snippets you can feel the pain, taste the profound grief Lewis suffered when "H." died. Don't look for tidy answers to why God allows suffering and grief. Rather look for the calm sense that even though we don't see God's purpose we can sense his
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presence and trust his promises. This is a wonderful read.
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LibraryThing member irinipasi
Honest, hopeful in even the bleakest of times, another glimpse of Lewis' brilliance.
LibraryThing member allenkeith
This book was difficult to relate to because it is a diary of sorts of CSL's very deep and personal experience in losing his wife to illness. The validity of CSL's Christian faith comes into consideration though I don't think it is a crisis of faith. One can relate to a good deal of what CSL
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writes. The book gives expression to the inexpressible.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
Probably the best thing about this slim book is the raw honesty of Mr. Lewis' emotions and his thoughts. Without fear, he expresses his greatest fears and the most painful things about his loss of his wife. For anyone grieving, there is relief in the thought that we are not alone - that here is
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someone who knows all those hurtful thoughts and emotions and claims them and is able to move through them. There's hope in that.
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LibraryThing member Katya0133
Beautiful and touching.
LibraryThing member poetreehugger
The most human of lewis's works.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
A powerful look at grief.
LibraryThing member pdebolt
In this slender volume, C.S. Lewis shares his personal experience with grief following the death of his wife. This is a grief that has him questioning his belief in God and exposing the raw, painful, angry emotions that accompany his grieving process. There are many ways to grieve, but one thing is
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certain - it has to be faced, and Lewis has done just that in this book. The harsh reality that everyone who lives will die means that we must all face grief at some time if we haven't already done so. His experiences with grief are not unique, but he is to be applauded for sharing his palpable pain in a way that may help others who suffer a loss of such magnitude.
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LibraryThing member Rebekah84
I read this back in high school (as many of Lewis' books) and couldn't put it down. How he changes talking about his grief and forming that into a love for Christ is nothing short of brilliant!
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