Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. ~ Robert Frost

People who are mourning a loss often don’t have the mental ability to focus on books, so the short length of a poem is a perfect fit. Each of the poems in Kara Bowman’s Heartbreak to Hope: Poems of Support for Grief and Loss captures a different aspect of grief. Readers will find their experience reflected on the pages in accessible and easily understood vignettes. They will feel less alone knowing that others have experienced the same feelings. They will move through the process of grief, having words for their emotions. And they will treasure this volume, coming back to their favorites time and time again for comfort and understanding.

I was sitting in a comfortable chair across from an impeccably dressed, petite, white-haired woman. She was crying gently as she described her husband’s death and the sharp pain she felt in her heart whenever she thought of him. She suddenly paused, looked me straight in the eye, and plaintively said, “I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to grieve.”

An hour later, a soft-spoken, intelligent young Latino man was in the same spot describing the agony of his life without his mother in it. His face looked desperate as he asked me, “Will this get better? What should I be doing?”

In my work as a grief therapist, I often receive these heart- felt questions. I wrote this poetry collection as a response to my clients and every person who wonders how to help themselves through the difficult process of grief. There are many things to learn but the most important thing to know is that grief is not something we need to do; it is something we simply need to allow. If we feel our feelings without judgment, bathed in self-compassion and allowing in compassion from others, the sharp edges will soften with time.

This collection grew out of the many hours I have spent with people who are mourning every imaginable type of loss, as well as my own experiences of grief. I tried to capture what I have heard: the expected emotions, such as sadness, longing and pain, and the sometimes surprising emotions, like numb- ness, anger and relief. My reflections are offered in bite-sized pieces, each capturing one part of the kaleidoscope-like expe- rience of bereavement, allowing you to take in as much or as little as you choose at one time.

We mourn both acutely alone and invisibly connected to everyone who has ever lived and grieved. In these poems, I hope to name some things you are experiencing and may not yet have words for. I also hope to help you recognize parts of your inner world that you didn’t realize existed. Finally, I hope that, as you read these poems, you will know others have felt similar things and you will feel less alone.

While it is now known that there are no set stages of grief, the poems are organized broadly in terms of some common reactions. The first section reflects when the wound is new, the second when grief has settled in for a long visit, and the third when adjustment to a new reality begins to take hold. As you read, you should find some recognition and comfort in these pages. Like the two clients described above, my wish is for you to ultimately arrive at a place of acceptance, peace and love.

© 2022 by Kara Bowman

About the Author: Kara Bowman, LMFT, CT, CCTP, C-GC, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in grief and trauma. She holds advanced certifications in Grief Counseling, Trauma, and Thanatology (the study of death and dying). Kara is passionate about helping people who are grieving through her private practice, as a hospice volunteer, by giving talks to the public and training therapists. Kara lives with her husband in Santa Cruz, California. For more information, please see https://www.griefpoetry.com and www.karabowman.com.

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