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A Grief Observed


A Grief Observed Cover

ISBN13: 9780060652388
ISBN10: 0060652381
Condition: Standard
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Chapter One

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. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don't really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man's life. I was happy before I ever met H. I've plenty of what are called 'resources.' People get over these things. Come, I shan't do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory — and all this 'commonsense' vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.

On the rebound one passes into tears and pathos. Maudlin tears. I almost prefer the moments of agony. These are at least clean and honest. But the bath of self-pity, the wallow, the loathsome sticky-sweet pleasure of indulging it — that disgusts me. And even while I'm doing it I know it leads me to misrepresent H. herself. Give that mood its head and in a few minutes I shall have substituted for the real woman a mere doll to be blubbered over. Thank God the memory of her is still too strong (will it always be too strong?) to let me get away with it.

For H. wasn't like that atall. Her mind was lithe and quick and muscular as a leopard. Passion, tenderness, and pain were all equally unable to disarm it. It scented the first whiff of cant or slush; then sprang, and knocked you over before you knew what was happening. How many bubbles of mine she pricked! I soon learned not to talk rot to her unless I did it for the sheer pleasure — and there's another red-hot jab — of being exposed and laughed at. I was never less silly than as H.'s lover.

And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief. Except at my job — where the machine seems to run on much as usual — I loathe the slightest effort. Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much. Even shaving. What does it matter now whether my cheek is rough or smooth? They say an unhappy man wants distractions — something to take him out of himself. Only as a dog-tired man wants an extra blanket on a cold night; he'd rather lie there shivering than get up and find one. It's easy to see why the lonely become untidy, finally, dirty and disgusting.

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in thewindows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all, ' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'

Our elders submitted and said, 'Thy will be done.' How often had bitter resentment been stifled through sheer terror and an act of love — yes, in every sense, an act — put on to hide the operation?

Of course it's easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He "is absent — non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it quite frankly, we don't ask for Him?

One thing, however, marriage has done for me. I can never again believe that religion is manufactured out of our unconscious, starved desires and is a substitute for sex. For those few years H. and I feasted on love, every mode of it — solemn and merry, romantic and realistic, sometimes as dramatic as a thunderstorm, sometimes as comfortable and unemphatic as putting on your soft slippers. No cranny of heart or body remained unsatisfied. If God were a substitute for love we ought to have lost all interest in Him. Who'd bother about substitutes when he has the thingitself? But that isn't what happens. We both knew we wanted something besides one another — quite a different kind of something, a quite different kind of want...

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smilesndeed, March 13, 2012 (view all comments by smilesndeed)
Absolutely the hardest book to stomach because of the nature of the book and its amazing description of what a person can go through with a significant loss.
Keep the kleenex handy because even I, as tough as I think I am, felt the weight of every painful admission of the grief process in these pages. It makes me dread the loss of my loved ones, a future event I may have to deal with one day. I will keep this book tucked away, just in case.
It is well written by one of my favorite authors. Two thumbs up.
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Kayla Perry, September 19, 2011 (view all comments by Kayla Perry)
I always intended to read this book after my first experience of the death of a loved one, but it has been six years since then that I finally sat down and read it.

First off, I'm agnostic, so I expected a bit of disconnect with some of his points. But on an emotional, visceral level, I understood. Lines that especially got to me were ones in the first chapter of the book, where he was more in the thick of his grief as opposed to approaching it from a philosophical standpoint.

Either way, I found it cathartic to read after all these years. It's hard to find something as intangible and yet so heavy as grief that is explained at all, let alone compellingly. The first chapter left me quite sad; the rest was interesting and probably requires a second reading at least.

In general, I found it at times heart-wrenching, at others merely politely thought-provoking, but in any case I found it meaningful. For such a slim volume, it's a very multi-layered read.
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wolfshades, August 27, 2009 (view all comments by wolfshades)
This is a wonderful review. Having read most of Lewis' books, with their unstinting thread of optimism in the face of heartache and sorrow, I now realize the loss of his wife occurred after he had written those, and so now I'm keen to read this short book of his.

If you've ever seen the movie "Shadowlands" , which is based upon the period of life on which this book expands, you'll recognize some of the blithe comments offered by well-wishers in his time of grief. They'll be familiar to you, particularly if you've lost someone. You'll understand the tremendous anger at the black and white ignorant simplicity of those meant-to-be-healing comments.

I don't have any answers at all to the profound agony of some of the trials some of us go through, and I'm keen to see what Lewis has made of his. So...thank you for this review.
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Product Details

Lewis, C.S.
New York
Death, Grief, Bereavement
Christianity - Literature
Christianity - Christian Life - Family Relationships
Christianity - Literature & the Arts
Christian Life - Family
General Religion
Lewis, C. S - Religion
Christianity-Christian Fiction
Christian Literature
Edition Number:
HarperCollins ed.
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.02x5.45x.33 in. .22 lbs.

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A Grief Observed Used Trade Paper
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Product details 112 pages HarperOne - English 9780060652388 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A very personal, anguished, luminous little book about the meaning of death, marriage, and religion."
"Review" by , "[Lewis] faces his tortured life with unswerving honesty, and writes out his conclusions, or lack of them, with a poetic expression which is often agony but never self-pity."
"Synopsis" by , Written by C. S. Lewis with love and humility, this brief but poignant volume was first published in 1961 and courageously encounters the anger and heart-break that followed the death of his wife, an American-born poet, Joy Davidman.
"Synopsis" by , A classic work on grief, A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewiss honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. Written after his wifes 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. 
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