Buffalo News "New Book Seeks to Address Grief, but More Importantly Mourning"
May 16, 2015
by Scott Scanlon

A Publication of the Healthcare Chaplaincy
March 5, 2008
Book Review
Rev. Dorothy Shelly

Perhaps everyone has a story that could touch your heart - the many stories that make up Mourning Has Broken deeply touched mine. Page after page, the inspiring stories of grief are full of riches. I affirm the foreword comments of Alan D. Wolfelt, grief specialist, "The stuff of healing is story writing and storytelling. Tell the story of the death and you begin to acknowledge it. Tell it 10 times and you begin to let it enter your heart. Tell it over and over again and you find it becoming a part of who you are."

Mara Koven, with a background in social services and journalism, and Liz Pearl, with a background in expressive art therapy and psycho geriatric therapy, have put together a marvelous collection of 50 first-person stories of wisdom and insight from various authors about healing after the loss of a loved one. Both editors deeply believe in the creative healing process of writing and have compiled this anthology of hope after they experienced the challenging journey through the pain of grief.

Chapter headings include: "Poetry, Writing & Journaling," "Refreshment Break," "Narrative Essays, Letters, and Mixed Formats." As a poet and critic of that trade, I found the poetry to be soul-awakening. It was a foretaste of what was to come as each writer seemed unafraid to grapple with and honestly confront the raw emotions of grief. Whatever the format, these personal narratives are a blessing to the reader whether presently experiencing grief or journeying with another in the healing process.

Mourning Has Broken is a perfect pick for pastoral care providers and I have a hunch it will be a resource tool that will frequently be taken down from my bookshelf.

Rev. Dorothy Shelly, BCC, RN, is a long-term care chaplain at Phoebe Richland Health Care Center, Richlandtown, PA. She is Vice President of the United Church of Christ Professional Chaplains and Counselors and is a poet and author of Anybody See My Shoes? Poetic Reflections From A Chaplain.

Harry van Bommel
Executive Director, Legacies Inc.
"Providing practical information when you need it most."

Mourning has Broken- A Collection of Creative Writing about Grief and Healing (2004, 2007) Toronto: KOPE Associates.  Liz Pearl and Mara Koven edited this book. Liz Pearl, M.Ed., is an independent psychogeriatric educator and therapist. She completed her graduate studies in The Expressive Art Therapies and Adult Education at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto. Liz is a member of OACCPP, an Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals, and of the Ontario PsychoGeriatric Association (OPGA). She can be reached at:

[Mara Koven-Gelman, MA, is re-married after being widowed in 2002. She is a writer living in Buffalo, NY. She can be reached at:]

The stories come from around the world: The U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. As David Penhale writes in his piece My Mother's Story, "When people die, we inherit their stories. It is important that we document those stories because otherwise, they might be lost." Although most of the stories are by survivors, there are several about loved ones who have died. A Mexican tradition states that we die three times: the first when we stop breathing; the second at our funeral and the third and last time when our name is spoken for the last time. It is, therefore, through the recording of stories that our loved ones continue to live. It is through recording our own stories that we continue to live.
Pearl and Koven's collection of creative stories, journal entries, interviews, poems and songs by survivors and their families serve a double purpose. First, as survivors, to record their successes so that they themselves can see how far they have come and how they overcame the difficulties.

It is fitting to end with a few words from Rabbi Earl Grollman's story in Mourning has Broken. "Shalom. In Hebrew it means farewell, peace, welcome." Shalom as farewell to the past, "peace with what life has brought" and "welcomes the future." Rabbi Grollman speaks as an international expert on dying, death and bereavement and from his own experiences with illness and recovery.

We learn best through stories and Pearl and Koven have provided us with a real gift that we should pass along to all survivors and their families. For further information, contact Mara Koven-Gelman at

Irene Sonia Switankowsky
University of Wales, Lampeter
Humane Medicine

Mourning Has Broken is a wonderfully crafted book on the process of bereavement and the sorrow that one experiences when a loved one dies. The authors show, through a collection of creative writings, how to express grief so that spiritual and psychological healing can occur. Some of the best ways to heal when one is grief-stricken is through creative writing in the form of diary writing, poetry, and narrative essays. Each of the authors in the book has lost a loved one, and is uniquely dealing with his/her sorrow through writing. Many of the authors have gained quite a bit of insight and perspective through the process of creative writing and have either started support groups of their own or wrote books about the process of bereavement.

Putting one's grief into writing usually takes fearless courage. The writer must be willing to face his/her fears, anxieties, sorrows, and vulnerabilities directly. The bereaved individual must also keep him/herself immersed in the process of writing until the renewed energy propels him/her to move forward. The process of writing as a form of healing could take weeks, months or years. Some bereaved individuals must wait for a while before starting to write because they may not be able to directly and immediately face their grief. However, according to most of the authors in the anthology, a bereaved individual should start writing down his/her feelings of grief as soon as possible in order to release his/her grief and start healing.

In other words, the bereaved individual must somehow learn how to psychologically and spiritually channel the negative effects of the tragic loss of a loved one. There is an unexplainable and incredible void that comes over a bereaved individual after the loss of a loved one. One way that this void can be channeled is through journal writing which is one type of writing process that helps the individual face his/her grief and sorrow gracefully and honestly. Every time an individual writes in his/her journal, (s)he releases more and more grief. The benefits of journal writing over other types of writing is that the individual could just write, without necessarily worrying about punctuation, spelling or cohesion. The writing style is dictated by the individual and it is personal until (s)he decides to share it with others. The journal can become the bereaved individuals best friend through which freedom of expression and the relief of sorrow reigns high. There is an emancipatory feeling to journal writing and the safety that one feels as a result of expressing oneself openly and honestly. Journaling is perhaps one of the most expressive types of creative writing for bereaved individuals.

The narrative essay is another important form of creative writing that the bereaved individual can use to express his sorrow after the loss of a loved one and how (s)he plans to cope with the loss. Writing about ones life experiences in relation to the deceased individual is beneficial to improve the bereaved individuals psychological, spiritual and physical well being.

The largest section of this anthology consists of narrative essays in which each author honestly expresses how the healing process takes place by writing about their feelings and sorrows after the loss of a loved one. Many turning points can occur in the process of healing through narrative writing. It is important to note that writing down feelings of grief does not guarantee a smooth healing process. However, narrative writing offers the bereaved individual the hope of a release from pain over time and a sense of peace, fulfillment and ultimately spiritual growth.

In conclusion, this book was a joy to read because of its frankness, intense compassion, and resultant healing. I would recommend the book to any individual who has experienced the loss of a loved one and needs to heal. This book will transport the reader from despair to a state of increased peace and tranquility. There is one thing that is absolutely certain: life will never be the same after we loose a loved one. However, each bereaved individual could spiritually grow as a result of the loss by transcending grief. This is a process that each individual is in charge of for him/herself. Hopefully, this book will motivate other bereaved readers to embark on their own process of spiritual improvement.

Alissa Lukara
President, Life Challenges, the CyberCenter for Living Creatively with Life's Challenges

Mourning Has Broken: A Collection of Creative Writing about Grief and Healing (Kope Associates, 2007) By Mara Koven and Liz Pearl. This unique anthology contains 50 original submissions that focus on healing from the pain of losing a loved one. The contributing authors share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings, invoking in the readers, tears, laughs, comfort and solace.

Susan Whitmore
President of The Erika Whitmore Godwin Foundation
griefHaven Where Hope Resides

Published in the griefHaven Newsletter © December 2007

We regularly receive requests from authors who want us to recommend their books. Our policy is that we must first read each one, for we want to make sure that we only recommend those books we feel will be appropriate for our journey. Once in a while we receive a book we love so much that we include it in this section. That is the case with Mourning Has Broken.

Mourning Has Broken is a unique collection of poetry, stories, essays, letters and thoughts. It deals with all deaths, including children and siblings. We found this book to be deeply inspirational and full of hope.

Here are some examples ...

Sandy Goodman lost her 18-year-old son, and she compares her grief to winter in her essay titled Seasons of Grief. She writes these beautiful words, .I wonder how much further I dare pursue this idea. Is grief, like winter, a gift? Can I speak about the metamorphosis of grief, and contemplate gratitude in its presence?...As winter alters the earth, my grief changed me. It gave me a period of time to step back from living and to just be. It was a time for reflection, reprioritizing and searching. Without this phase, I would have remained as empty as a garden that never rests.

Andrea Gambill lost her daughter, and in her essay, Liberation, she writes, .I have been liberated from inhibition and self-consciousness. The strength born of my pain has given me the courage to speak out when before I might have remained silent. I longer fear the criticism and judgment of others. Who can hurt me now? I have experienced the worst and I have survived. Sorrow has stripped away my worst fears. Now, I am more aware of the panorama of life and less concerned with my own little piece of it.

Mourning Has Broken is replete with all that you could possibly want. Today, you can find many anthologies sitting on bookshelves, but we promise other is more meaningful, hopeful, and moving. Do yourself and your loved ones a this book as a gift or just because you deserve it.
Designed by Noah Koven