The Madness of Grief: A Memoir of Love and Loss By Richard Coles

    This is the most beautiful love poem I've ever read. It is a song to love of a partner, love of nature, love of dogs, love of God and love of love.
    There were parts of the book which almost broke me but do not be put off because the wit and warmth are wonderfully uplifting. As you would expect from surely one of the kindest people on earth, Richard Coles is a generous, thoughtful writer, who is as kind to his readers as he is to everyone.
    This is a story which needed to be told and a book which needs to be read. English To be honest, I am not sure what I was expecting from this book.

    I didn't have any real knowledge of Richard Coles before I read the book - I was aware that he was on Strictly Come Dancing and only found out from the book that he was in the Communards. It emerges during the book that Richard sees himself as a 'celebrity vicar'. So, given that description, I'm quite glad that he hasn't appeared on my radar!

    So, what was I expecting? Given the title of the book, I was expecting a good smattering of madness and some understanding of how Richard's faith had helped him to deal with grief. I didn't receive either. Instead, I got a number of pretty mundane stories of the his life, including a number of name dropped celebrities. If I hadn't known from the title, I am not certain that I would have appreciated that he is a man of the cloth.

    There was very little appreciation of the pain that his partner must have gone through over many years and how Richard had supported him (perhaps that is covered elsewhere?). He talked a lot about love, but was also very quick to point out his partner's failings.

    Overall, I felt it was less about how he dealt with his partner's death and more about Richard's (celebrity) lifestyle. The book smacked of me, me, me, me. This is recognised in Page 130, when Richard recognises that he should have been kinder, loved him more strongly, made him happier. I could have done, but I did not, because I was too self-absorbed.

    That said, there are a number of very amusing anecdotes and his writing style is warm and friendly.

    So, I didn't really warm to Richard Coles and learned very little of the madness of grief. Perhaps a better title could have chosen. I'll refrain from suggesting one...... English A short, very personal story of the death and burial of the partner of Rev Richard Coles. It is written with depth of feeling, not leaving out the anger and frustration amongst the deep sadness. I know little about David ( his partner ) other than he suffered from alcohol related illness. I believe the Reverend has now resigned his post in the church because of the CofE stance on gay marriage. English I read this book in two sittings - I would have devoured it in one, but a) I did a lot of Googling whilst reading, looking up places and music, amongst other things, and; b) it got late and was struggling to keep my eyes open, and didn't want to miss anything in the beautiful, moving, sad, uplifting recounting of Richard's grief at losing this beloved life partner, David, so young. Their relationship wasn't always plain sailing, but their deep love for one another shines through. Richard writes so eloquently about his feelings of loss, anger and bewilderment. It starts shortly before David's death and he takes us through the whole experience. It was so beautifully written and so touching and, despite the sad nature of it, it wasn't gloomy - indeed, there are definite flashes of humour. I have meant to read his other books for a long time, and after finishing this one I am definitely going to. English A beautifully written and poignant book, very moving. English

    Whether it is pastoral care for the bereaved, discussions about the afterlife with parishioners or being called out to perform the last rites, death is part of the Reverend Richard Coles' routine. But since his partner the Reverend David Coles died in December, much about death has taken Coles by surprise. David's death at the age of 42 was unexpected - he never recovered from an operation for internal bleeding.

    Now the man that so often assists others to examine life's moral questions has found himself in the need of help. He is looking to others for guidance to steer him through grief. The flock is leading the shepherd. Much about grief has surprised Coles: the volume of 'sadmin' you have to do when someone dies, how much harder it is travelling for work alone, the pain of typing a text message to one's partner, then realising you are alone.

    The Reverend Richard Coles' account of life after grief will resonate with the many thousands of his followers and listeners. The Madness of Grief: A Memoir of Love and Loss

    I think I must have missed something with this book. I was hoping for a raw and emotional account of a vicar’s experience of losing a spouse and the aftermath, how he coped, and how he managed this alongside his unwavering faith. Instead, it was very descriptive, mainly of his visits to friends - not interesting - and only covered the first couple of weeks after his partner’s death. The random paragraphs in italics throughout the book randomly referred to holidays and seemed to me like they did not fit. I just didn’t get this book. 2.5 stars. English Richard Coles' civil partner, David, died in December 2019 due to complications arising from his alcoholism. Whilst Coles had grown accustomed to David's quirks and side-effects due to his illness, his death was sudden and unexpected.

    The Madness of Grief covers the period of David's death from the evening when he first became ill to just after the funeral. A few short weeks over the festive period that David loved so much. How does one carry on when the one you love so much has died? What would they have liked at their funeral? What do you do with all their stuff? These are all questions Coles faced following David's death and with the help of friends and family he strode on.

    I loved this book. It was so honest and the way Coles spoke about his life with David, it is like you could get to know him.

    I read a review that said that this book was all about Coles. Well, of course! It is a memoir about how he dealt with an incredibly difficult time of his life. What else would it be about? English Madness of Grief. A memoir of Love and Loss

    I really resonated with this book. Can't say I enjoyed because for me it was close to home. I lost my husband after 46 years of marriage on 23rd December 2020. He had been ill throughout the difficult pandemic year his health deteriorated and I knew it was essential for him to go into hospital. It was difficult because of the situation. He was admitted 11th December. Initially had tested negative for the virus. A couple days later a patient insisted ward tested positive adding to his issues. A week later his health deteriorating he also tested positive so was moved to a covid ward! We managed to persuade them to let me visit. I arrived with a wedding photo. He did not know me! I got a phone call later that night night he had gone. We had no children and family to far away to organise a bubble. I spent Christmas alone. The moods of anger and despondency I relate with. So thank you Richard it has helped me. English (3.5) I knew Coles by reputation as one of the UK’s media-friendly vicars like Kate Bottley, and I vaguely remember hearing that his partner died in December 2019, likely through others’ engagement with his announcement on Twitter. I know he has also been associated with Greenbelt Festival, where I used to be a regular. But I happen not to have come across his speaking engagements, his previous books, his 1980s pop music (the Communards), or his BBC radio program. I requested this from the library because I’ll read any bereavement memoir going, and was interested to see how his faith informed his reaction.

    Coles’s long-term partner, David, was also an ordained priest, and although the Church of England does not recognize same-sex marriages, it did acknowledge the civil partnership they had been in since 2010 (though some cruel people who call themselves Christians took it upon themselves to write to him and tell him David was in hell and he’d go there, too). David died at age 42 of a GI bleed; Coles does not reveal until nearly halfway through the book that the ultimate cause of death was alcohol addiction, mostly because he doesn’t want a complex and beloved human being to be reduced to a label. But he is speaking out about it now because such secrets only hurt people. In addition to enumerating David’s good points, he is honest about the habits that drove him mad and the ways in which they had drifted apart.

    The book has a limited time span: from December 13th, when David was hospitalized, until January 3, 2020, the day of his funeral. But Coles opens the picture outward through flashbacks from their relationship and flash-forwards, in italics, to show how he was coping with grief nearly a year later. He avoids religious platitudes, focusing on the practical and universal aspects of loss. “The Christian hope of life beyond death seemed suddenly rather abstract, and so I had decided to start the admin, which is mountainous” – he later dubs it “sadmin.” There was so much paperwork to file, so many possessions to sort through, and some wrenching tasks that had been performed, like giving away three of their five dachshunds when he realized there were too many dogs for him to look after on his own.

    Coles strikes me as effete, though perhaps that’s unfair when I’ve never seen or heard him in the flesh. He is surprisingly posh: his ancestors owned the boot factory that employed all the locals, and he spends his first Christmas as a widow with Charles Spencer (Princess Diana’s brother) and family. Even when writing about the gloomiest topics, he is witty: “It is hard to think of anything more English than standing in Waitrose in Eastbourne, the object of distanced sympathy, by people buying forced rhubarb and salsify.” He also has a good eye for a telling scene: the one that stands out to me is when, after David’s death, he goes to Hay-on-Wye and buys an expensive leather-bound copy of In Memoriam, only for one of the dachshunds to chew the cover off.

    At times I felt this story needed more time to settle; it was clearly written quickly during a time of lockdown, and I often appreciate more hindsight in a memoir (Mary Karr says to give it seven years before writing about an experience). However, the immediacy does allow him to capture the emotion and confusion of his loss in a way that should resonate with many, even those not of a religious background. This should appeal to readers who enjoyed On the Red Hill by Mike Parker.

    (Coles mentions a surgeon he met who’d worked in Syria and nearly broke down when the Queen asked him what it was like at the hospitals there. She saw his distress and invited him to give treats to her corgis to help him recover his composure. I recognized this scene from War Doctor – it happened to David Nott.)

    A favorite passage:

    “Death is the enemy, and we want to contend, so we try to establish rules of engagement for a fair fight, but there is no fair fight, and there are no rules of engagement. You have no power.” English FYI: I don't rate memoirs and biographies. I don't feel comfortable rating someone's life experiences and feelings - especially in this instance.

    I have very recently had an unexpected and sudden death in the family. My head has not been in a great place, and I found I could not concentrate on anything to read. I reached for this because I wanted a shared experience with someone who would understand, and this book was either going to make or break me.

    Reverend Richard Coles lost his partner David very suddenly just before Christmas 2019. In The Madness of Grief the reader sees his journey in the immediate run up and aftermath of David's death, with a little bit of background about their lives together. It wasn't easy to read, I knew it wasn't going to be. At times I felt so heavy reading this, so full of emotion and drawing parallels between our presentation of grief. It's such a complicated emotion, grief. It's not just sadness but rather a tumultuous explosion of guilt and anger, sadness and a dash of humility. Or at least, it is for me. It's a random rollercoaster ride of thoughts and actions that leave me feeling exhausted and empty. And lost. Very lost. To see Richard visiting his friends and extended family I could understand why he felt the need to do this, see his desperate attempt to reconnect with his life 'before' David in order to try and re-establish himself. To find a point to it all.

    Add into the story that Richard has 5 dachshunds (I have one) and I just couldn't help drawing an affinity for his journey. I was ultimately left feeling very touched, and not quite alone.

    Very triggering, I don't think I could have read this at any other point in my life than now. But I'm also incredibly thankful that I found this when I did. English


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