As a hospice chaplain I deal with grief and mourning on a regular basis. From a family mourning the loss of an elderly grandparent to a mother grieving the loss of her infant child and everything in between, grief and mourning are my business. As such, I’m always on the lookout for some resources on grief and mourning that I can recommend to people. There really aren’t that many. I’m looking forward (I know that sounds weird) to the DVD release of Rabbit Hole, a film about a couple grieving the loss of their son. But as far as books go, there aren’t that many that I’d recommend.
C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed is about as close as I get to recommending a book on grief. It’s a short book that contains nothing more than the famed author’s notes on his grief following the death of his wife.
Lewis writes with raw honesty. A former atheist who became the twentieth century’s most famed defender of Christianity, Lewis expressed his doubts that surfaced soon after his wife’s death. His doubts were not that God existed. They were whether or not God was truly a good God. As time passed, his doubts subsided.
My favorite passage of the book comes toward the middle of his grieving period, when he again starts to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. He writes this about how many people say, “If I could suffer instead of (fill in the blank)”:
And then one babbles–‘If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her.’ But one can’t tell how serious that bid is, for nothing is staked on it. If it suddenly became a real possibility, then, for the first time, we should discover how seriously we had meant it. But is it ever allowed?
It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can so be done. He replies to our babble, ‘You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared.’
After this point in his reflections, grief’s veil begins to lift.
If you are a Christian and are currently grieving the loss of a loved one, know of someone who is grieving, or are in a position to help someone who grieves, this little book will be of value to you.