*** DEBUG END ***

Lights for the Path: A guide through grief, pain and loss, by Madeleine Davies

10 July 2020

Tess Kuin Lawton reads advice from someone who went through it

IN THE pages of this very personal book, the reader is accompanied by the complex knot of grief which the author has borne for 20 years. If one were to ask, “Who is this book for?” the most obvious answer is that it is for Madeleine Davies herself (Features, 21 May). Indeed, she is at her best when using her own voice to gloss the wide collection of information.

With students or pupils at school in mind, the inclusion of large chunks of biblical passages was often off-putting, until her voice re-framed it. So, after a difficult passage from Hebrews, it is a relief to hear, “it’s how I felt during the years when my mum was ill. . . I was afraid. This isn’t the life that God wants for us.”

Dishing out Bible passages to unchurched readers, or those on the fringes of the Church, makes them feel even more isolated and marginalised; and it does not do justice to the many excellent references to “being angry with God”, which speak to the real complexities faced by bereaved teenagers. I would also have liked to see Bible passages re-told as story and simplified to Daniel, Lazarus, and Thessalonians only.

This is a small book with a vast amount of information. If it can be reviewed annually, it offers a genuinely useful compendium of resources. For teenagers who love to read, the number of references to novels will introduce to them to new and non-judgmental friends. The personal stories that are at the heart of the book could have been used to greater effect. They underline the core truth, which is that there is no right way to grieve: an absolutely vital message to get across to young people, who are constantly trying to work out how they “should” behave.

The best sections are those where we hear “Molly” or “Grace” or “Andrew” at length in their own words. Equally, where we hear large sections of Malcolm Guite’s wisdom. I would have liked more of Joanna Collicutt’s own words or the inestimable Paul Fiddes on the death of his son. Chapter 4 (What is Death?) is the weakest, not least because the best bits of it are already in Chapter 6 (Funerals) and Chapter 8 (How could God let this happen?).

Scattered throughout the book are superb practical points that could be summarised at the end of each chapter and collated into a final single list: “It’s OK to want someone who is suffering to die,” “Nothing you have thought or done has caused this death,” “You will be happy again.” In the end, there are edits that could be made for this book to be fully accessible for young people, but I would recommend it strongly for ordinands and chaplains.

The Revd Dr Tess Kuin Lawton is Chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford.


Lights for the Path: A guide through grief, pain and loss
Madeleine Davies
SPCK £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

Listen to Madeleine Davies talk about the book on the Church Times Podcast

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)