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Reform Magazine | October 19, 2017

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A grief shared

A grief shared

Overwhelmed with grief for his wife, Joy, CS Lewis wrote the most helpful book there is on the subject. On the 50th anniversary of his death, Susan Dowell gives thanks for Lewis’ gift

There is only one book by a Christian apologist I would even contemplate commending to a friend who didn’t “do God”, especially when the person concerned is at their most vulnerable. But I have done just that, over so many years that I no longer feel I’m taking a risk, because there are now countless people on both sides of the God debate who have said they were helped and consoled by this book in ways they never imagined possible. It’s A Grief Observed by CS Lewis.

It has achieved this, I’ve been told, because Lewis does not set out to console: he offers no soothing words to his reader because, there being none he can, in honesty (and, like him or not, Lewis can be relied on to be unflinchingly honest) find for himself.

Written in the weeks following the death of his wife Joy, it is clear from the opening sentence: “Nobody ever told me that grief felt so like fear” that these are not the reflections of a man who has come to terms with his loss, but one struggling to make any sense of it at all, and whose Christian faith seems to offer no answer.

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect you don’t understand.” …

Susan Dowell is author of  They Two Shall Be One: Monogamy in history and religion (Harpercollins, 1990)

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This is an extract from the November 2013 edition of  Reform.

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