11th June 2021

“The Madness of Grief. A Memoir of Love and Loss” was a most welcome birthday gift. This book by Richard Coles, popstar turned priest, was for me a page turner and uplifting rather than something to drag you down.

In the context of the current obsession with portraying Instagram-perfect lives, the honesty expressed around the joys and frustrations of sharing your life with those you love was refreshing. Perhaps we hope that insights into how others engage with life’s highs and lows might help us understand ourselves better and that in life’s most challenging situations, we might find resonances between our own experiences and those of whom we read.

Coles says “Christians, like everyone else, need to grieve when they lose the ones they love. I have never been of the school that thinks our priesthood obliges us to… bury our mothers and our husbands and our children dry-eyed and level-voiced in the sure and certain hope… I have no doubt in the mercy and generosity of God, nor in the promise of more to come…”. I’m with Coles: expression of emotion in such settings strikes me as helping affirm others who find themselves responding similarly.

Another strand running through the book values friendship. Coles says “…you realise we are not so much authors of our lives but a library of other people”. The constraints of the pandemic have perhaps stripped away some of the ‘clutter’ and brought into sharper focus the relationships that really matter to us? I guess our friendships do help shape our lives as well as giving others clues about who we are.

Ruth Allen