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The loss of his wife to cancer in 1960 caused C.S.Lewis to write "A Grief Observed", in which he reveals how Joy's death tested his belief in a loving, all-powerful God.

"The odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll “say something about it” or not.

I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.

At first I was very afraid of going to places where she and I had been happy, our favourite pub, our favourite walk. But I decided to do it – like a pilot up again as soon as possible after he’s had a crash. Unexpectedly, it makes no difference. Her absence is no more emphatic in those places than anywhere else. It’s not local at all. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.

What chokes every prayer and every hope is the memory of all the prayers we offered, and all the false hopes we had. Not hopes raised merely by our own wishful thinking; hopes encouraged, even forced upon us, by false diagnoses, by X-rays, by strange remissions, by one temporary recovery that nearly ranked as a miracle. Step by step, we were led up the garden path. I wrote all this, a yell rather than a thought. Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street?"


Jessica Mesman, an American writer, wrote in "The Jesuit Review" last year: -

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you,” writes C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed. It’s a moment of epiphany, or, as I prefer to call it, a smackdown. Epiphany sounds too hopeful, too certain, at a time when I find myself, like Lewis at the time of his writing, questioning everything I thought I knew.

A career spiritual writer, I suddenly find the vocabulary of my genre shallow and even repugnant. The old tropes of beauty in brokenness, wounded healers and cracks letting the light in seem pathetically thin in response to this kind of brokenness. A Grief Observed remains powerful precisely because Lewis does not come to lovely conclusions about God or faith or suffering. He asks many more questions than he answers. He rants, questions, weeps and feels terrible, deservedly sorry for himself and for the woman he loved so much and has now lost. And in doing so, he renders in prose what it really feels like to grieve."


When evil darkens our world,

give us light.

When despair numbs our souls,

give us hope.

When we stumble and fall, lift us up. When doubts assail us, give us faith. When nothing seems sure,

give us trust.

When ideals fade, give us vision.

When we lose our way, be our guide!

That we may find serenity

in Your presence, and purpose in doing Your will. John D. Rayner

Blessed Jesus, in the comfort of your love,

I lay before you the memories that haunt me,

the anxieties that perplex me,

the despair that frightens me,

and my frustration at my inability to think clearly.

Help me to discover your forgiveness in my memories

and know your peace in my distress.

Touch me, O Lord,

and fill me with your light and your hope.

Lord Christ, you came into the world as one of us,

and suffered as we do.

As I go through the trials of life,

help me to realize that you are with me

at all times and in all things;

that I have no secrets from you;

and that your loving grace enfolds me for eternity.

In the security of your embrace I pray.

Loving God, by your Holy Spirit inspire me,

as I fear losing hope.

Give me a fresh vision of your love,

that I may find again what I fear I have lost.

Grant me your powerful deliverance;

through the One who makes all things new,

Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

A prayer at night

Watch, dear Lord,

with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,

and give your angels charge over those who sleep.

Tend the sick, Lord Christ.

Give rest to the weary.

Bless the dying.

Soothe those who suffer.

Pity the afflicted.

Shield the joyous.

And all, for thy love's sake. St.Augustine

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may rest upon your eternal changelessness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Compline)

O God of peace, who hast taught us

that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: lift me, I pray thee, to thy presence, where I might be still and know that thou art God;

A prayer for love, by Archbishop William Temple.

O God of love, we pray thee to give us love:

Love in our thinking,

love in our speaking, Love in our doing,

and love in the hidden places of our souls; Love of our neighbours near and far; Love of our friends, old and new; Love of those with whom we find it hard to bear, And love of those who find it hard to bear with us; Love of those with whom we work, And love of those with whom we take our ease; Love in Joy,

love in sorrow; Love in life

and love in death; That so at length we may be worthy to dwell with thee, Who art eternal love.

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