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Lament for a Son

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,570 ratings  ·  212 reviews
This book was written more than twelve years ago to honor the author's son Eric, who died in a mountain-climbing accident in Austria in his twenty-fifth year, and to voice Wolterstorff's grief. Though it is intensely personal, he decided to publish it in the hope that some of those who sit on the mourning bench for children would find his words giving voice to their own ho ...more
Paperback, 111 pages
Published May 18th 1987 by Eerdmans (first published January 1st 1987)
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 ·  1,570 ratings  ·  212 reviews

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David Schaafsma
I read this in part because Woltersdorff had been a professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, where I had done my undergraduate degree in English. He was part of the then famous group of philosophers there at that time, including Alvin Plantinga. I never had them as teachers, but I knew of him and admired his reputation as a philosopher from afar, so I bought the book, but not in 1987, when it came out, but in 2002, when it was reprinted, because I had more reason to do so.

Woltersdorff lost hi
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and beautiful. I didn't want a practical book on grief. There are no answers that I can fathom that would be sufficient, and I didn't want attempts. Wolterstorff doesn't try to answer questions - in fact he asks questions mostly. He just shares his own experience of grief, opening up his own heart to welcome other "mourners" to come in and join him. I've handed it on to my dad and he's currently reading it for the second time. I would recommend to anyone, because really it's not just a ...more
Drew Bennett
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The most honest Christian book I’ve ever read, which begs the question why as Christians we have such a hard time being honest, especially about the most difficult parts of life - like death. Wolterstorff writes about the death of his 25-yr-old son. His reflection is sad. Beautiful. Perfect. He does not shy away from complaining, nor does he shy away from faith. He complains to God. A true lament. An act of faith that avoids being platitudinous and preachy, and thus shows us the way to care for ...more
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow...what an honest, heart-wrenching, intimate book. While it is true that each person's suffering is unique and personal, this book also contains universal truths. The book is also full of sincere questions, struggles with faith, and genuine "grief work". The reflection on "blessed are those who mourn" is itself worth the price of the book, but there is so much in this short little book. I will return to this book over and over for personal reflection on pastoral care as well as sermon prepara ...more
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by a wonderful lady by the name of Mary who owns a bookstore in Sandwich, MA on the Cape. I was curious as to how it would fare due to how thin it was but I began reading it immediately. I could NOT put it down. I read it in one sitting as it's very easy to read due to it's journal style.

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a master at writing about all the feelings one goes through after a loss. Feelings that leave you scratching your head and wondering how you arrived at t
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I believe what first had me pick this up was a short piece I read by Helen De Cruz, about a month ago. She was writing, I think, on religious and nonreligious mystical experiences and the kind of warrant (or lack thereof) they might enjoy in epistemically directing our gaze towards a seismic and particular vision of ultimate reality. And there was something in her way of addressing these things, an attitude towards religious thinking that was heartily theistic and yet as heartily modest, that se ...more
Demetrius Rogers
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: soul-care, favorites
I'm not sure what "shelf" to put this on in goodreads... Is it biography? Is it family? Is it life changers? Or is it poetry? Should it be ministry? Perhaps spirituality? Wellness? I think it's all these things, and more.

This was good to read. Good for the soul. Healthy, I think would be the word for it. In this little book, Wolterstorff gives voice to his grief over losing a son to a tragic mountain climbing incident. He processes his pain via 67 short, yet hauntingly beautiful entries. And he
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of the truest descriptions of grief I have ever read. Poetic and devastatingly beautiful. I loved this quote:
“Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over.

Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forge
Michael Nichols
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really incredible read. I was surprised by how carefully written it is. I suppose I expected a hodge-podge collection of writings or some reflections. But it’s a crafted lament with themes and sentences that take very intentional form. This contributed to the effect—the suffering had shape and structure, even amidst the chaos.
Laura Sievert
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I firmly believe that every person, having experienced the loss of a loved one or not, should read this book. In his writings on death, the author casts a vision for life that is hauntingly beautiful and a testament to the power of the gospel
Lucy Wightman
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Lament for a Son
by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Simple and elegant are two words that come to mind after reading Lament for a Son. This small, easy book does not overwhelm therefore counterbalances the impossible loss of one’s child. One of the universal changes in grief is the loss of concentration. In losing a child I am not sure this improves dramatically. It took two years before I could read more than a few pages at a time.

In the genre of grief, I found the author’s reflections to be specific, desc
Rachel Edney
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-asap
“Every lament is a love-song. Will love-songs one day no longer be laments?”
Luke Hillier
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, memoir-bio
A friend loaned this to me on Sunday, making it the first book in a while I've read without owning –– it was so hard to resist underlining portions and scribbling thoughts in the margins! And, of course, I ended up loving it so much that I already plan to purchase my own copy for annotating and re-reading.

I wasn't sure during the first portion. I admired Wolterstorff's unrelenting bleak honesty and his unwillingness to sugarcoat any aspects of his process, but at the same time it felt nearly vo
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Although I could relate, it was extremely heart wrenching, too much so, for a newly grieving parent.
It was however, reassuring that I wasn't losing my mind, but merely experiencing what any parent who has lost a child experiences.
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
37% of these pages
Now dog ear’d
Jackson Brooks
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A simple, sobering read. Thought provoking
Alex Johnson
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gen-must-reads
Wolterstorff (whose name I should be able to spell due to me having to cite his works throughout my time at the venerable institution of Calvin College) not only gives a look into what it's like to live with grief, but he also wrestles with a vision of a suffering God—a God who grieves alongside us. I resonated with his own walk in grief—on family, "When we're all together, we're not all together" (14) hit me especially hard—but I was challenged and deepened by his exploration of how suffering a ...more
Sara Whear
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I cried the whole first half. Somewhat reminiscent of C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed (although I prefer that book). There were a few suspect theological statements.
James Korsmo
"It won't stop; it keeps on going, unforgiving, unrelenting. The gears and brakes are gone" (23). Nicholas Wolterstorff lost a son who was in the prime of his life. Suddenly, and without warning. Awful to behold. In brief compass, Wolterstorff gives a very authentic voice to his pain and grief. It isn't muted for general audiences (or at least, not much), nor is it smoothed over as a blip in human experience. Rather, grief is met head on. And neither is it moralized into "what doesn't kill us ma ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one I could not put down. It's simply, yet elegantly written. Raw and vulnerable, yet full of hope and insight. A must read for anyone who is helping others deal with grief in general, but specifically with the death of a child. I've always known that losing a child is not the natural order of things. Wolterstorff puts the depths of what I might have thought into deeply moving and insightful words.

Several lines throughout the book resonated with me. Here are just a few. From the preface,
Joel Fick
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
"It's a love song. Every lament is a love song." "Lament for a Son" is a beautiful, honest, and difficult articulation of grief. Wolterstorff invites us into his grief, to rejoice with him over the life of his son, and to weep with him over the sudden loss of his child. He is no longer complete, his family is not complete. "When we're all there we're not all there, his absence as real as our presence." It will make you cry, or at least it should. Death is un-natural. "Death, I knew was cold. And ...more
Phil Jensen
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's a hole in the world now... Only a gap remains... There's nobody now who saw just what he saw, knows what he knew, remembers what he remembered, loves what he loved. A person, an irreplaceable person, is gone... Questions I have can never now get answers. The world is emptier. (p. 33)

God is not only the God of the sufferers, but the God who suffers. The pain and fallenness of humanity have entered into his heart...

To redeem our brokenness and lovelessness the God who suffers with us did n
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a journal-like book on the author's grief following the accidental death of his young-adult son. Wolterstorff is a theologian but he does not claim to have all the answers --he asks a lot of questions and struggles to integrate his belief in the Living God with his sorrow and pain at his son's death. He is comforted in knowing that our Lord suffered too, and speculates that being made in the image of God includes that we will suffer as he did. This book is a good companion to anyone who ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual-memoir
This is at least my second reading of this little book. Maybe more. It doesn't take long to read. I am thinking about losses in my life which were sad but not like losing a 25 year old son. I am thinking about losses in friends' lives which were unimaginable.

Wolterstorff recognizes the pain and the mystery of his loss. He laments profoundly and knows that is part of never forgetting his son. He remembers that God suffers too but is still left with many questions.

I will save this book. I may ne
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I first read this in my college philosophy class. I enjoyed it at the time because it gave me such a powerful insight into the death and grieving process. I have since read it a handful of times after losing loved ones. It is an incredibly moving book and I'd recommend it to anyone who is grieving.
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very helpful during a time of desperate need.
Dustin Bagby
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully and powerfully written. A short, but deep well of insight into the one who grieves.
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Best book as a companion as I grieved the death of my own son.
Collynn Harper
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Raw, honest and intimate.

He gets it.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grief
Mr. Wolterstorff expressed many of the thoughts I have after losing my 18 year old son. It was reassuring to hear someone feel the same way and be able to express what you felt.
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Wolterstorff is the Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, and Fellow of Berkeley College at Yale University. A prolific writer with wide-ranging philosophical and theological interests, he has written books on metaphysics, aesthetics, political philosophy, epistemology and theology and philosophy of religion.

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“And what of regrets? I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memories to prod me into doing better with those still living. And I shall allow them to sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all throw ourselves into each other's arms and say, "I'm sorry.” 29 likes
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