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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A loving effort in capturing and reasoning with grief, 13 Oct 2010
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This review is from: A Grief Observed (Faber Paperbacks) (Paperback)
Someone close lost her husband to cancer last year. From the diagnosis to his death was slightly over one year. Confronting this reality, I read widely on suffering and then grief, in the hope that I would be able to walk side by side with her through this journey. Though not experiencing grief first hand, I hope I would be able to have some understanding of what she has been going through and what I can say to her or do will be informed and helpful.

Most of the books I have read on the subject of suffering and grief are highly analytical, more suitable for someone who is preparing for these life events as eventual possibilities in life rather than for those who are actually confronting and dealing with them.

A Grief Observed therefore is different in its nature. It was a journal recording Lewis's thoughts during his grieving period in his hope to make him feel better. Under normal circumstances, one would properly say that this book is not very well written because it is difficult to understand; it jumps and skips; it argues with itself. But this is not a normal circumstance, Rather it is a glimpse into a grieving widower's mind; and the confusion and muddle as conveyed by the book reflects that. Perhaps it is a world that does not make sense, hence the struggle to make sense of it. In a way, one can argue that Lewis set himself a difficult task - capturing in words what cannot be captured. How many can really speak of grief, let alone a man? Very often all that we can see of grief is tremendous sadness in silence especially after the initial shock and the initial angry outbursts.

What I like about this book in particular is the honesty in questioning God. And I find it comforting that we are allowed to wrestle with Him. Lewis said that his great fear was not to find that God did not exist but that He was not good. Doesn't it sound like all of us at some point? And Lewis's reasoning: "Your bid - for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity - will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high...Nothing less 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 sense. Only tortures will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself." (p.33)

Then Lewis moved on to ask if such extremities of torture should be necessary. "The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness." (p.37) He drew parallels with a surgeon whose intentions were wholly good. "The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless." (p.38)

Apart from these big questions, Lewis was, I find, quite sensitive in offering how one could cope with grief. I like his way more than, say, Queen Victoria's. It is not about getting over it or preserving the past but moving forward without dishonouring your marriage so dear to you. His advice, I believe is sound: Don't seek aches for their own sake - the less of them the better, so long as the marriage is preserved. Passionate grief does not link us with the dead but cuts us off from them. (p.47) This can be achieved when we concur with Lewis's ground breaking perspective that:

"...then for both lovers, and for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance, but the next figure." (p.43)

I think this is a beautiful description which holds a lot of wisdom. I do not know about you, but for me I have chosen to adopt it in preparation for that inevitable phase of my marriage one day.
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