A Grief Observed – The Book Club

While growing up, I always noticed the books by C.S. Lewis on my mom’s bookshelf. Mom was a fan. Still is. So I’ve always known about Lewis. But, other than the popular Narnia series and Screwtape Letters, I had not read any of his other works – hence, my motivation for a monthly book club.

After reading his autobiography Surprised by Joy, my husband told me that I must read A Grief Observed. It’s very short, and Jeff had recently read it during a plane ride home. He said it was one of the best books he had read in a while. And he’s a reader too. So for my second book club selection, I went with it.

In A Grief Observed, Lewis journals about his grief after he loses his wife to cancer. He says:

“This record was a defence [sic] against total collapse, a safety valve . . . There is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” (71)

My copy of the book has an introduction by Madeleine L’Engle, and I really appreciated what she had to say. In essence, “each experience of grief is unique” (7). I couldn’t agree more. L’Engle spoke of her own loss, a husband of forty years and noted that C.S. Lewis “had been invited to the great feast of marriage and the banquet was rudely snatched away from him before he had done more than sample the hors d’oeuvres” (6).

Everyone experiences loss, and loss through death, very differently. The reason my husband was so moved by Lewis’s words is that my husband’s life has been indelibly marked by severe death and loss. While still young, his parents each died unexpectedly, and separately, from accidents. He could identify with Lewis’s descriptors of grief:

“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.” (15)

A sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.
An inability to take in what anyone says.
A concussion.

Those who have lost someone they love to that great and ghastly chasm called death understand the reality of these words all too well. This is what good writing does to us. It articulates what we can sometimes only feel. A good writer, who is able to capture those painful experiences in words, may help us to not feel so alone in our own suffering.

In the coming days, I will continue to write about the process of grieving and how Lewis’s words spoke to this universal, human experience.

What have you learned from your experiences of loss and grief?
What, if anything, comforted you during those times?

By leaving a comment, we can link back to your blog to read how Lewis’s words spoke to you. For March 1, 2011, we will read “Out of the Silent Planet.”

6 thoughts on “A Grief Observed – The Book Club

  1. An insightful post on this Lewis book. I first read The Problem of Pain and much later read A Grief Observed. I was immediately struck by the fact that Problem of Pain was very abstract while the second book was very personal and immediate.

    Life is like that. Other people's problems can seem sad or unfortunate, and we can examine their problem with a certain sense of caring in the abstract.

    But when the pain is deeply personal and related to our own losses, then, and only then, does the subject become , well, not a subject, but a living and growing experience. And it is in our pain that God often speaks to us most clearly.

    Great series – God bless you – Marsha

  2. An insightful post on this Lewis book. I first read The Problem of Pain and much later read A Grief Observed. I was immediately struck by the fact that Problem of Pain was very abstract while the second book was very personal and immediate.

    Life is like that. Other people's problems can seem sad or unfortunate, and we can examine their problem with a certain sense of caring in the abstract.

    But when the pain is deeply personal and related to our own losses, then, and only then, does the subject become , well, not a subject, but a living and growing experience. And it is in our pain that God often speaks to us most clearly.

    Great series – God bless you – Marsha

  3. Carissa: Wow, that's incredible that it was required reading for your M.A. program. I know you work with those who are suffering. You have an amazingly tender heart to do what you do. You truly are the hands and feet of Christ.

    LW,21: Your post on your blog is great. I love all the same quotes that you selected. And I completely agree that being surrounded by beauty in God's nature is very soothing and comforting. And nothing can replace being surrounded by those you love.

    Kathy: I'm so sorry about your neice and brother. Your testimony about God's Word bringing comfort during those times is powerful. His Word is living and active!

  4. I'm glad you'll be posting more on this subject. I like your point about how a good writer can describe what many of us feel, and in the process help overcome some of the pain.

    To answer your question – I haven't experienced grief yet, in the loss of a loved one. I have struggled with some loss at a less tragic level, and with depression, and I've found that what comforts me in those times is losing myself in favorite stories. Also, getting away to a beatiful place for a while helps. Mostly though, being surrounded by those who love you without them fussing over you – I wonder how much of that Lewis had?

    My post on A Grief Observed is up at http://littlewomen21.blogspot.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s