A Grief Observed: Book Summary, Review and 7 Key Lessons

a grief observed
TitleA Grief Observed
AuthorC. S. Lewis
Rating★★★★★ (5 stars)
Purchase LinkBuy Here

A Grief Observed is one of the most personal books written by C. S. Lewis in which he describes his experiences after the death of his wife.

Therefore, for anyone who is a fan of C. S. Lewis or who is going through something similar, it is a must-read. To read more book summaries, click here and check them.

Synopsis of A Grief Observed

Before starting with the summary, it is worth making a small synopsis of the work.

A Grief Observed is a work written by C. S. Lewis, a well-known British theologian and writer, about his experience of grief after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman. The book is written as a series of reflections and observations through which Lewis struggles to understand his loss and accept his pain.

He writes about the pain and confusion he feels, as well as his doubts about his faith and the meaning of life.

Therefore, we can say that it is a very personal book for C. S. Lewis, where we see him very fragile. You can buy A Grief Observed clicking here.

Summary of A Grief Observed

The book is quite diverse, so I’ve tried to summarize the main points in the paragraph below, and then I’ll detail some main points.

A Grief Observed is an account of C. S. Lewis’ grief after the death of Joy Davidman, his wife. The author reflects on his feelings of anger, confusion, and pain. Lewis brings thoughts relating faith and the feeling of loss, as well as other reflections of his and conversations with his friends. Finally, he realizes that the love for his wife is greater than the grief, and that he needs to move on with his life.

The book is a very honest account — rarely have I seen such honesty in a book! Therefore, he ends up being very direct with his feelings.

Lewis reflects on the fact that he will never see his wife again, bringing a philosophical reflection about faith and this feeling of loss.

The book shows how personal experiences, even negative ones, can make us think about profound things.

Several thoughts of his and conversations with friends are raised during the book, bringing many points of view on the subject.

The reflection continues until, finally, he comes to the conclusion that he needs to move on with his life, and that his love is much stronger than any kind of grief he may have. Read a summary of Mere Christianity here.

Review of A Grief Observed

But after all, is the book good or bad? What are my opinions about the work?

Despite the book’s difficult subject matter, it is without a doubt a very profound exploration of the experience of grief. Lewis brings, despite everything, a very inspiring and hopeful view of this experience, and about the possibility of healing from this feeling. It is a read that is especially interesting for anyone who has lost a loved one.

But, even if you haven’t lost any relatives, the book also brings several philosophical reflections, something very typical of C. S. Lewis!

This book reminded me a bit of The Abolition of Man. They have very different propositions, of course, but they both brought up several important philosophical questions about human life for me.

The experience of grief is universal: virtually everyone in the world will experience it. So reading something so clear on the subject is very helpful. You can buy A Grief Observed clicking here.

Key Lessons from A Grief Observed

There are a few lessons from the book that are worth highlighting, and that’s what I’ll do here:

1. Grief can change a person, physically and emotionally

Grief can drastically change a person’s thinking: how often do we see people who, after going through this experience, become more pessimistic and sad? Others, on the other hand, learned from the lesson and matured.

In the physical part, something similar also happens: some people may become weaker, eat less, etc., while others acquire a deeper vision of human existence that is shown in their looks.

2. There may be doubts in faith during grief

Grief brings many questions, and it is natural for people to be frustrated by these types of experiences. In the case of people with a spiritual life, such pain can end up weakening their faith.

Because of this, it is worth deepening your faith in order to know how to deal with these experiences at times like this. To know more, read a summar about ‘Till we Have Faces by Lewis.

3. People react differently to grief

Some people, when they go through grief, can cry tirelessly. Others keep everything to themselves and end up keeping quiet or even getting sick. Although many people experience this type of pain, the reactions are very different.

In fact, this is a fact that has to be taken into account when we see someone going through this experience: we shouldn’t judge them if they aren’t crying every day, because everyone reacts in their own way.

4. People avoid talking about death

Death is a fundamental subject for human life, but most people avoid the subject. As it’s something extremely serious, many simply don’t talk about it or make jokes so they don’t have to reflect on it.

However, it is fundamental for the human experience to reflect on death. Philosophical reflections on death is something that can be missed in old age.

5. Bad things happen to good people too

This is a question that many people raise: “why did this happen to me, if I’m so good?”. The truth is that good and bad things can happen to good and bad people alike.

If we think we are not worthy of suffering, we need to accept that, in some way, it can serve for our maturity.

6. We need to find purpose in the face of suffering

In fact, although human suffering is a natural part of being alive, we don’t need to face it in a completely negative way: we can find meaning in this bad phase we are going through.

A classic author who addresses this subject is Viktor Frankl, who talks about the search for meaning in life.

7. Grief is a natural part of the human experience

Not only is death something we all have to go through: virtually everyone has experienced grief for a relative or close friend. In other words: losing loved ones is part of the human experience.

Therefore, it is necessary to face grief and reflect on it to be able to deal with all this feeling and with that, come out stronger. 

Negative Points of A Grief Observed

The book is so good that it doesn’t even seem to have any negative points, but it does have an issue that may be important to some readers.

The work Grief Observed may not be so interesting for those who have not gone through a strong bereavement situation and, therefore, it may not be a work for everyone. Furthermore, Lewis brings a Christian view of the subject and, for that reason, not everyone will like this point of view.

However, I don’t believe this is a reason not to read it, as it is a philosophical reflection above all else.

A work by C. S. Lewis that may be more interesting to the general public is The Four Loves.

Positive Points of A Grief Observed

There are so many qualities in this book that it is even difficult to list, but I will try to do this difficult task.

The book A Grief Observed is a perfect portrait of a person going through the grief phase and, therefore, can be of great help to anyone who is grieving for a deceased relative or friend. C. S. Lewis brings an extremely balanced and profound view of this reality so common in human life. For this reason, the book is excellent.

Knowing how to capture such a dense human experience and put them into words is not an easy task, but the author did it!

And best of all, it’s a way to understand a little more about the life of Lewis, such a renowned author. You can buy A Grief Observed clicking here.

Is A Grief Observed worth reading?

If you’ve read everything up to here, you certainly already know my opinion, but let’s get to the verdict.

A Grief Observed is well worth reading, especially if the reader in question is going through the experience of losing a loved one. However, everyone will benefit from the philosophical reflections on human life and its nature that this book brings. It’s a great C. S. Lewis classic.

And of course, if you’re interested in buying the book, it’s worth checking out! You can buy A Grief Observed clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the book A Grief Observed about?

The book A Grief Observed speaks about the reflections of author C. S. Lewis that he had after the death of his wife Joy Davidman in the year 1960.

When was the book A Grief Observed written?

The book was written in 1960 and published in 1961.

What was the pseudonym used in A Grief Observed?

C. S. Lewis used the pseudonym N. W. Clerk to write the book, as he preferred to avoid giving details of his personal life.

How many chapters does the book A Grief Observed have?

The book has 4 chapters in total.

Did grief make C. S. Lewis loses faith?

Although C. S. Lewis’s faith was shaken after the death of his wife, he did not lose his faith, as he reveals throughout A Grief Observed.

How long does it take to read A Grief Observed?

An average reader should take from 1h30min to 1h40min, depending on their reading speed, to finish the book.

Vítor Costa

PhD in Polymer Science and Technology. Loves to read and study about sciences, psychology, philosophy and other subjects.

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