A Grief Observed

A Grief Observed

A Grief Observed

Lewis, C. S.





Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moment,” A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man — or at any rate a man like me — out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.” This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.


Wall Street Journal

C.S. Lewis’s memoir records the immediate aftermath of the death of Joy Gresham, a woman 17 years younger than Lewis whom he married at age 58, after a lifetime as a bachelor, only to lose her to cancer four years later. “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear,” he writes at the opening of this book, in which nothing is held back—the bitterness, the self-pity, the self-chastisement for having the self-pity, his anger with his beloved God. All is laid bare. When he senses relief and begins to rationalize her absence, he is quickly reminded that “the first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again.” It would be wrong to say “A Grief Observed” is a book without redemption; it’s deeply Christian in outlook. But whatever the meaning of the suffering he endures, Lewis’s description of it is unflinching. The result is a remarkably intimate journey into one man’s dark night of the soul.



“A very personal, anguished, luminous little book about the meaning of death, marriage, and religion.” — Publishers Weekly

“I read Lewis for comfort and pleasure many years ago, and a glance into the books revives my old admiratation.” — John Updike


After having read several of Lewis’ books, I read “A Grief Observed” which quickly became my favorite. It is his journal – and almost too personal – where you bear witness to Lewis’ progress as he sloughs his way through the deep mire of sorrow and grief.
In the first pages of the book, he tells of going to God, seeking relief from the agony he feels in his heart over the fresh loss of his beloved wife, Helen Joy, only to find – the door slammed and the sound of the door being bolted and doubled bolted from the inside.
He rails against God and his faith is stirred to its core.
In the end, he finds his way back to God, but it is not an easy journey or a primrose path.
For all of Lewis’ intellectual reasonings and scholarly attainments, I find “A Grief Observed” to be his best work because it comes from the very heart of a man seeking to find the answers to life’s hardest questions. It is not a philosophical insight or an intellectual wrangling, but a spirit-filled work that lays bare the heart of a man who loved his wife completely.
This is an important book. Read it. You’ll be changed.

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Barnes & Noble

C.S. Lewis put into the writing the very things I felt, but could not express, in my own grief. I felt less alone – less hopeless after getting a glimpse into another Christian’s pain and suffering. It is a short book – a collection of random thoughts he jotted down after his wife died of cancer. Easy for someone grieving to read, as concentrating is often difficult at such times. I underlined half the book, I found it so relevant to my own situation.

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February 17, 2015