Tag Archives: Catherine

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

“It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.”

― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In 1961, C. S. Lewis published A Grief Observed, a book about the death of his wife and his journey through his grief.  Nearly sixty years later, people are still connecting with Lewis’  words.  I read A Grief Observed last January, a few years after losing a dear friend.  Lewis affirmed my thoughts and feelings again and again and I wished that I had read it years before when I was in the midst of my grief. Death affects all of us. The loss of a loved one is at some point brought before us and yet still we often fumble in our interactions about grief and with the griever. I think Lewis says it best when he says:

“I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate if they do, and if they don’t.”

― C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

You can’t help but feel Lewis’ deep love and subsequent anguish at the loss of his wife. His words ring true as he describes the anguish, the emptiness, the anger and finally the desideratum surrounding a life partner taken too quick. Lewis puts words to an experience all face but few can articulate in quite a poignant manner. He writes:

“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.”

– C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

How often have those who have been in a period of loss felt that restlessness with a listlessness that makes it hard to be? You can’t really sit still because you need to move before you drown further in the sadness that has grabbed hold of all of you. If you are there and you need help facing life after death, I highly recommend A Grief Observed. I recommend it for anyone who wants to witness fierce love and loss and becoming who you will be without, all that you were before.

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.

But no, that is not quite accurate. There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place I can’t avoid. I mean my own body. It had such a different importance while it was the body of H.’s lover. Now it’s like an empty house.”

― C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

– Review by Catherine, Main Library

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

 “I am dead to the world’s tumult

And I rest in a quiet realm

I live alone in my heaven

In my love and in my song.”


-From What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Who are you when everything is stripped away? Who do you become when your possessions, family, and dignity have disappeared and you are left bare? The future can seem impossible when you start with nothing.  

In What the Night Sings, Gerta has endured two long years in a German concentration camp. Surviving with her is the hint of a song and her dream to sing. In front of her is her heritage, a people she doesn’t know and overwhelming decisions about who she is to become. Gerta didn’t even know she was Jewish and now that empty part of her past makes moving forward even more difficult.

Gerta befriends Lev, a traditional Jewish man who represents Gerta’s personal struggle to shed the traditions of a people and follow her dreams, to be free of others’ rules and sanctions for her. Can her personal dreams survive a Holocaust and thousand year old customs? Will it become another prison? Music has sustained through all the horrors. Will it be part of her future?

Stamper embeds ink wash illustrations within the text. In the Author’s Note she describes how she took some direction from “slow cinema” to tell her story, using elements from directors like Tarkovsky and Tarr to create haunting pieces of art. These gorgeous additions add to the already powerful story. Her use of language and the role of music in Gerta’s life makes this story stand out in a sea of Holocaust books.

Review by Catherine, Main Library